Somnambule - Writing About Music

Jackie-O Motherfucker ~ The Magick Fire Music, Wow!

...Extension... from close at hand, but just out of sight come the shrieks and screams of a tribal celebration, dancers moving vigorously in a circle, their movements repeated over and over again – so much so that they appear to be suspended motionless just about the ground ...Bonesaw... exhausted now. Needing rest. Stumbling on... something keeping him going, a second wind that sweeps him up and propels him forward. His progress becoming somehow magnificent as it’s watched from different camera angles. In slow succession various shots fill the screen: his face, the movement of his legs, his boots almost obscured by the the dust they raise ...The Cage... as the dying sun sets on the shimmering horizon a cowboy rides a tired horse out of the roaring light and into view on the dusty plain... big, deep wavering notes from oversize tremolo guitar, no drums. And almost 12 minutes long. Gorgeous. In the eleventh minute the slow confidence of the music quickly and suddenly falls apart and ends in chicken scratches and animal calls ...Second Avenue 2am... Long notes sound and fade in the great, isolated and windswept outdoors. Music for godforsaken, long-forgotten towns where sandstorms blow up out of nowhere and blind anyone foolish enough to get caught outside. That wind rattles and shakes anything metal, leaving it more and more pitted over the years. We thought initially that this particular storm would die down quickly, but instead it’s growing quickly into something bigger, something like a tornado, a twister. It’s pulling bits of the town up and tossing them down miles away ...Jugband 2000... a voice echoes, vibrations and computer blips carry on the air. For a minute or two this might be William Gibson transplanted to the Texas plains until a sweet little guitar melody traces and retraces itself across the field of vision ...Quaker... sitting in a backyard that looks out onto the desert, Jew’s harp, birdsong, scratchy old guitars which pick out short rhythmic figures like the memories of popular songs long lost. As their determination to continue playing increases, a great solar wind sweeps over the huddled figures while a sax plays middle eastern melodies teasing them from their whiteknuckled concentration ...Lost Stone... that low trembling guitar (strangely recalls Pat Metheney’s tremolo-riven instrument on Steve Reich’s Electric Counterpoint)...

Mostly long tracks sounding like they were made from detritus found in backyard lots of vacant houses – rusting clothes driers, wheel-less bicycles, the roar of a jet overhead. Scrapyard blues without the blues, it’s the flotsam and jetsam of other people’s lives carried on the wind. Maybe swirling at your feet or high up in the sky, but it makes a sound and it’s been in touch with stuff, people, things. Pagan music, music with raspy skin and grey hair grown shaggy and in need of a cut; grizzled and battered music; jerrybuilt, lashed-together music; glorious, messy, smudged, ragged and transporting. Goes nowhere and goes all over the place. Might be longform, late Coltrane reimagined as elegiac music for dustbowl ghost-towns, certainty and faith evaporated in the dry air leaving only the heat and the endlessness of the landscape.


Black Squirrels – like Krautrock made noisier, messier. Everyone seems to be playing at once, caught up in the enthusiasm of it all. There’s a squalling, hell-bent quality absent from its successor, The Magick Fire Musick. At times it feels as though everything is beginning to meld into a single levitating mass which is ultimately too heavy to achieve escape velocity and instead comes crashing back down to earth.

Wow – begins with lonely percussion. ever so slowly gains momentum, walking quietly along a trail of its own making. For the first 10 minutes or so Wow sounds like the ambient parts of an early King Crimson track, say Formentera Lady. It’s like a rock group’s take on free improvisation. As the track progresses over its 24 minute length, listening feels like lying on your back on a warm day watching the clouds roll by, the sun appear and disappear, planes fly past, maybe even a hot air balloon or a glider and feeling yourself ever so gradually dissolving into the blue...

Love Horn – is emptier verging on sparse, full of sax squiggles and guitar tremors, cymbal splashes and pyrrhic horns; this might be the sound of goatherds on the mountainsides of Spanish islands, it could be heard on the wind from the Atlas mountains. This sounds ancient, like LaMonte Young’s ancient-sounding music. No hurrying this 17 minute track.

To paraphrase Hassan i Sabbah: with Jackie-O Motherfucker’s music ‘nothing happens, everything happens...’

First issue of these two albums on doublepack cd, previously only available on vinyl. The Magick Fire Music originally released: 2000 and Wow!: 1999.
Colin Buttimer
April 2004
Published by Absorb