Album Review: Jakartah, In The Nervous Lights Of Coincidence

[from MadeLoud, November 22, 2009]

In theory, Jakartah’s In the Nervous Lights of Coincidence should be awesome. Take bare-knuckled doom riffing, add a dash of heartfelt wailing and throw in a songwriting sense that takes a left turn at 1980s art rock and the genius declares itself, right?


Somewhere between the group’s blatant Dischord aspirations and slightly more miniaturized prog ambition, Jakartah’s focus on sound apparently cannibalized any traces of songcraft; rather than realizing the oft-rumored dream of the noise-rock/sludge-punk love child, it’s as though Jakartah asked themselves what Tool would do for a Fugazi tribute album, then added a layer of atonal distortion just to see what would happen (and to leave it intact regardless of what actually did). This is not to say Jakartah fall prey to the aimless meandering that has sank so many similar groups, but simply that their focus on the end seems to have come at the expense of the musical means.

Consider the near-pop of “A Thousand Miles Connects You To Me”; while Richard Fudalewski’s vocal lines come through in grizzled workmanlike fashion, nearly elevating the track to full-on catchiness, the group adds a layer of purposefully dissonant guitar figures, turning that moment of brightness into minutes of palpable tension. Jakartah don’t always take such a hammer to their tunes, even briefly flirting with, dare anyone say it, anthemic rock on “The Dire and Ever Circling Ghost” and the circular air strike of “Hawaii Burns At Sunrise.” But with a vocal delivery mostly avoiding conventions like melody and meter, the group instead leaves it to the listener to separate the rants from the raves, the heartfelt from the hateful, shifting wildly between the semi-spoken to the flat-out yelling; musically, the persistent reliance on the power-chords-as-riff approach sounds theoretically awesome, but in practice simply finds itself in limbo between droning brutality and twee folkiness.

Jakartah may commonly be labeled post-hardcore, post-rock, or any other flavor of post-musicality, but in reality In the Nervous Lights of Coincidence comes off as more a step back than a step forward. In the end, what begins as the sound of a band trying so hard not to sound like anything else ends in a band really just sounding like nothing at all.