Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Jupiter One debut EP

Originally written for Soundcheck magazine, though not published there

The self-titled debut album by Jupiter One, a New York City band, is electric. In every sense of the word. The crystal clear vocals by K Ishibashi soar above the electronic synthesizers, electric guitars, electric violin and electrifying drums, creating a sound that is complex yet effectively balanced. The signature instruments are the chameleon-like synthesizers, whose impressive range reflects the scope of the entire album.

Like a journey (or more appropriately, a trip), the fiery yet whimsical album opens with a short instrumental piece, “Intro for Ani Enorda” akin to an orchestrated tune-up. From there, with the specificity of Dave Heilman’s drums and the bright melodies from three synthesizers led by Mocha, and assisted by Zac Colwell and Ishibashi (who also alternate with the electric guitar or electric violin), the songs call at times to a disco ball or to Mr. Roboto in all his techno glory. Radio-destined songs such as “Countdown” or “Fire Away” are more than just catchy pop tunes, becoming layered opuses with distinct movements as the instruments build and drop out of the fray.

The crisp, percussive lyrics, treated with such tenderness by Ishibashi, become more extraneous, though no less melodious, as the album goes on (“I never buy umbrellas anymore/ I’ll just lose them anyway”). Vocal harmonies a la Queen are introduced and the focus moves towards exploration with the synthesizers. In “Unglued”, they flutter like a harp then chime like an organ; they are light sabers at the start of “Wrong Line” and merry little bells in “Umbrellas”.

By fusing celebrated musical elements from decades passed with a modern-day sensibility, Jupiter One has an irresistible, unique sound. On “Countdown”, when Ishibashi sings: “And so it
begins” the implications reach far beyond the context of the song.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Down Under Was On Top

In my attempt to "Australia-ize" myself, I happily accepted an invitation to see Xavier Rudd, the Aussie Jack Johnson, of sorts. He's certainly got the surfer-hippie-beach vibe down, his music has a distinct reggae-island tone and he's playful, humble and charming like a modern-day Crocodile Dundee.
More importantly, though, the man is a multi-instrumentalist wonder. And I do wonder, in fact, if there is anything he can't play. I was witness to him on an acoustic guitar, a Weissenborn slide guitar, a harmonica, a synthesizer, drums (plus the bongos at drummer Dave Tolley's set) and the cherished native Aussie instrument, the didgeridoo.

Now, as Americans, we don't know what we're missing by our ignorance of this instrument. It's reminiscent of those long Swiss horns made famous by the Ricola TV commercials, only more of a straight, hollow wooden pole, traditionally made out of eucalyptus. It was created and originally played by the Australian Aboriginees. It creates a percussive, constant sound not unlike a synthesizer, and each of Rudd's three didgeridoos had a different pitch. Apparently they work somewhat like a harmonica in that the sound and breathing is cyclical and constant, with tones both on the inhale and the exhale. This has led some to believe that playing the didgeridoo is a good cure for snoring and sleep apnea... whaddyaknow? (I want this one)

Opening for Xavier Rudd (for all of the shows on his North America tour) was a Nashville folk singer, Griffin House. His acoustic sound and wistful, romantic lyrics ("Any guy who would say goodbye to you is out of his mind") would be more fitting for a coffeehouse or small venue than the flashy Nokia theater in Times Square. Nevertheless, the crowd was seduced by his southern charm through his brief but engaging act. He spoke of returning with his band, with his sights set on playing the Bowery Ballroom. I will be there if he comes.


A lot of times at local shows, the doors are opened to the venue long before the first act takes the stage. People tend to mill around, drinking and mingling amid the anxious and enthusiastic energy of the empty space. I found it quite curious then, and amusing really, that at the Nokia theater, of the hundred or so people who chose to enter the vast space early (separate from those who preferred to mingle outside the theater at one of two large bars), most were just chilling on the floor. I mean literally, sitting or even laying on the floor of the venue in the blue mood lights.
(By the way, the lighting engineer at the Nokia theater rocks. True, he or she clearly has awesome equipment to play with, but I was thoroughly impressed with the specificity with which Rudd's set was complimented and dramatized by the lighting.)

Back to the point: Who sits on the floor at an indoor concert hall? I can't wait for the day that this trend makes its way downtown to Bowery Ballroom or the Mercury Lounge...

(Didgeridoo photos from

Friday, September 5, 2008


As a new contributing writer for yet another online music site, I have now joined the ranks of music-loving Aussies at
(Thank you to Nick)
It is a very thorough site based out of Australia featuring music news plus reviews of albums and live shows from around the world (Australia, UK, Ireland, NYC...).
The biggest challenge I foresee is picking up the accent.
Check out the site here, hey!

Jupiter One Takes New York City by Storm

Written for Soundcheck magazine:

"If Jupiter One were a hurricane, K Ishibashi would be the eye of its storm. Grounded at the center, calm and controlled, his energy spirals off to the rest of the band, each of whom is their own force to be reckoned with. In the same way that a great storm is fascinating, Jupiter One is captivating: the crowd moves, cheers and jumps, as close to the edge of the stage as possible, longing to get swept up into the storm..." read more

** the Album review is still on the editor's desk at Soundcheck magazine, but in the meantime, check out the songs here