If ambient music is, as Brian Eno put it, "able to accomodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting," Jatoma fit the bill. I'll say this for the mysterious trio's self-titled debut, though: Almost every time I've had it on, when I'm not ignoring it I don't merely find it interesting. I find it a little bit crazy.
Most of the 13 songs on this album are leisurely variations on simple, often looped musical themes—the up-and-down flurry of what sounds like a treated woodwind on "Manipura," the Steve Reichian chimes loop grounding "Dust in Wong." But much of the time they end up careening and zig-zagging sonically—"Dust in Wong" climaxes with a radar-like squeal whose coda is a distracted hiss. To do that and act as aural perfume at the same time is not a bad feat.
The fripperies are window dressing, though. Jatoma—whoever it is, and whomever does what—find or make or cobble together basic, classic house and ambient keyboard patterns and then stretch them at the peripheries. The edges get weird, but the center stays rock solid. The tracks follow structural currents that make sense, and while warped timbres are common, these guys (I'm guessing) are clearly getting off on seeing what kind of tricks they can pull off with these patterns.
Not everything works—the album stops dead in the middle with "BOU," a melange of deep-in-the-woods percussion clicks, wispy laptop filter-talk, and subdued pulse that seems to make fun of witch house even if there's no way that's what they intended. But usually Jatoma is more direct than that. A track like "Paper Lights" luxuriates in their goofy fervor for timbral shifts and crinkles: the vocals go through heavy, wah-wah like filtering—almost Todd Edwards-like—and the vowels are distended until they seem to drift on forever into the distance. The album has an improvisatory feel that's common to other trios right now such as Cobblestone Jazz and Wareika, but Jatoma seems more groove-based, and also more interested in beauty for its own sake.
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Tracklist: Jatoma - Jatoma 01. Little Houseboat
03. Dust in Wong
04. Alang Beach
06. Wood Face
08. Smoking Keys
09. Paper Lights