Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Discography Rediscovered: Jam & Spoon's "Kaleidoscope"

After a long hiatus, the Discography Rediscovered series is back. This time I'm taking a listen to Jam & Spoon's 1997 album "Kaleidoscope".

I first heard this album my freshman year of college. My roommate at the the time (Hi Joe!) was big into electronic music, I think we were still calling it 'techno' back then. He belonged to one of those old monthly CD subscription clubs (remember those?), and he would periodically get a few CDs delivered to him. One day he received Kaleidoscope. I remember enjoying it at the time, but my roommate did not and he never really listened to it again, I think he might have even trashed the thing, I don't really remember.

I had the album in the back of my mind whenever I would visit a record store (remember those?), but I could never seem to find it. Then one day, possibly on a break from working summer camp, I found myself at Streetlight Records in Santa Cruz perusing the electronic music section and I spied this album sitting there. I promptly scooped it up and have been pleased ever since.

It's hard to find a whole lot of info on Jam & Spoon. They were a German duo who, according to AMG were "pioneers of trance" in the early 90s. Recently I learned that one of them, Markus Loeffel (last name there being German for 'spoon'), passed away a few years ago at age 39. Too many drugs one would think.

Back to the album at hand: Kaleidoscope isn't rated all that highly among Jam & Spoon's works, and I realize that on some level it's not necessarily an amazing or profound piece of work. At its core it's just an easy album of light trance, complete with light dance beats and a sexy sounding woman singing vocals. It's such an easy listen that I would venture to say that I probably listen to this album from start-to-finish more than any other album in my collection. I can put it on track one and just let the whole thing play through. It's got a great flow, moving from mid-tempo dance numbers to moody experimental pieces, and back again.

I have no idea what inspired Jam & Spoon to make this album, but if I had to concoct a story, I'd say that Mr. Jam and Mr. Spoon had just gotten back from Ibiza having enjoyed plenty of time listening to Spanish guitar while sipping mojitos on the beach (after a long night of clubbing). The whole thing has a laid back vibe and features plenty of Spanish guitar. Just listen to the opening track Garden of Eden. It's like I'm there on the beach while Santana plucks at his guitar in the background.

The album is helped by the aforementioned sexy sounding female vocalist, Plavka. (Damn if she doesn't look sexy too). She just makes the whole thing all the more enjoyable. Her vocal skills aren't going to blow you away or anything, but she provides just the right amount of sultriness to keep you listening.

The entire album just flows nicely. After the first track we get the two 'hits' of the album Kaleidoscope Skies followed by the dancy Right in the Night (Fall in Love with Music), which really seems so incredibly tame compared to modern dance tracks. Soon we get into something a bit more experimental with the superbly named Warm Dead Dog. Next up is Flame, which just screams "put this track on while you make out!". Later we get El Baile, which features a Spanish guitar loop while some guy yells commands to dance in Spanish, gradually becoming a more trance infused affair. Near the end of the album we get Mark Runs the Voodoo Down, which evokes a great late night mood with it's use of saxophone. Finally we get the duo I Pull My Gun Once and I Pull My Gun Twice, which consists of a ridiculous sounding German repeating the lines "I pull my gun once/I pull my gun twice/I pull the trigger to your head/because it feels so nice" while a monstrous guitar plays which gradually gives way to some trance.

There's really nothing extraordinary about Kaleidoscope. I don't think it broke any boundaries or was even particularly noted among fans of 90's trance. It's just an easy listen. The music is never terribly complicated and the dance tracks feel light and breezy, as well as dated, compared to anything you might hear nowadays in the electronic music scene. This is a great album to listen to while tripping out, making love, on a long car trip, or just relaxing.

I had a friend looking for this album for years with no luck, I think it might never have had a proper American release (my copy has some German on it which makes me think it was printed there). In fact, it seems difficult to find any of their albums. I would reckon that the copy I found at Streetlight was just some import someone had sold to them (maybe through bizarre serendipity it was my roommate's copy?). The last time I heard anything from Jam & Spoon was when I was in Austria and they released an album that featured a few guest vocalists. The one track worth listening to off that album is Cynical Heart, featuring Jim Kerr, who you might remember was the lead singer from Simple Minds.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Please I would like to listen this album. Can you upload it, please?