Why does punk rock have a claim to the do-it-yourself ethos? Bands of all stripes make music from the ground up — and with the rules of distribution changing all the time, it's no surprise that more musicians are taking matters into their own hands. In that light, there's much to love about the DIY simplicity of Messy Jiverson's latest release. Rivers, Old Growth and the Wizard's Cloak was recorded over two days this past December "in a dusty basement" with no overdubs or studio trickery. Two months later, the collection is available as a free download on the band's website (www.messyjiverson.com). Such immediacy fits the m.o. of the band: It thrives on instrumental jams that melt into one another, dissolve and then circle back around.
Messy Jiverson sets itself apart from the jam-band masses in a few ways, however. By and large, these eleven songs are guided by fuzzy analog synths, rich electric pianos and a restless rhythm section. Moreover, there's very little aimless guitar playing — the songs are almost always led by textured vintage keyboards. When the guitar does step forward, as on the intro to "Quantity (In the City)," it's actually doing something. Thick, sustained notes drive the song forward, before some nice disco-funk upstrokes emerge to add variety.
The band is much more concerned with setting a mellow mood instead of wowing its audience with solo after solo. In that sense, Messy Jiverson has more in common with some of Herbie Hancock's chroma-colored '70s albums (Sunlight in particular) than the Phish/Dead/Panic trinity. When the beat picks up, though, the band can move from laid-back grooves to high-energy rock & roll. With a little imagination, the go-go interplay of bouncy Fender Rhodes and ragged guitar on "Surfin' Mississippi" could pass as a Northern Soul backing track. Messy Jiverson isn't brainy enough to be Return to Forever or weird enough to be P-Funk. Instead, the smart instrumental band believes in the power of melody and song structure, thereby keeping its members from reaching beyond their grasp.
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