REVIEW: Brant Bjork – Jalamanta (Remixed and Remastered 2019)

BRANT BJORK – Jalamanta (Originally 1999, Remixed and Remastered 2019 Heavy Psych Sounds)

When the needle hits wax it won’t be long,
You got your radio tuned but it won’t play this song.

20 years ago, Jalamanta was one of my favourite albums in the world.  This is my third copy.  Partly instrumental, partly vocal, but 100% Brant Bjork.  It was his first solo album, and he played virtually everything himself.  The laid-back desert vibes are perfect for a summer evening chill-out.  Humid, sparse, exotic, varied compositions take you across a hazy landscape.

In 2019, Brant and engineer Tony Mason remixed Jalamanta, to take it the place they “always wanted it to go”.  The remixes are largely subtle, just making the album sound bigger in your ears.  The vocals might be a little less buried.  It’s still raw, and sparse, and all the things you always liked about Jalamanta.  Some songs have more noticeable differences.  More guitar on “Toot”.  Tracks tend to run longer than their previous fade-outs.  But there are things I enjoyed about the original that aren’t here.  The echoey lead vocal on “Toot” — “Cat scan, cat scan…”  That echo is gone, maybe so the sonic field wouldn’t be too crowded with that louder backing guitar?

This remix will never replace an original, especially when it was one of my favourites 20 years ago.  What is “Jalamanta” made of that makes it so tasty?  Only the most basic of ingredients.  Rolling bass and drums, simple unaffected guitar parts, and Brant’s laid back singing style.

Yeah, the man shakes me down and that’s why I’m broke.
The rich man’s got all the green but it ain’t the kind you smoke.
So we turn up the rock, and we roll it slow.
We’re always flying high, and the ride is always low.

Snakey guitars jab in and out of the speakers — one song is even called “Cobra Jab”.   Other tunes are more aggressive.  “Too Many Chiefs… Not Enough Indians” has a relentless and simple riff, with the snakey guitars carrying the melody over it like a wave.  Brant’s quiet vocal is hypnotic.  By contrast, “Defender of the Oleander” has a barely-there main riff while the snakey licks do all the brilliant melodic work.  Brant goes for hypnotic again on “Her Brown Blood”, a speedy run through the desert, with a cool monotone vocal right in the middle of your head.

Whichever version of Jalamanta you happen upon, you are guaranteed an incredible listening experience.  The new remix is certainly more three-dimensional, and will sound better on your big system.  But you will lose some of the charm of the original.  The 2009 vinyl used to be the way to go, with a beautiful full-colour booklet and Blue Oyster Cult cover “Take Me Away”.  But now you can get “Take Me Away” here on CD, albeit remixed.  Another bonus is exclusive to this CD — “Bones Lazy”, which segues out of “Defender of the Oleander” into the brilliant rocker “Low Desert Punk”.  And with the title “Bones Lazy”, you won’t be surprised that it is “Lazy Bones” backwards!  Like you’re watching Tenet.  Cool though.  Even though I knew what was likely coming, I felt like it fit right in.

Get a load of this, man.

Well I’m gettin’ up when the sun goes down,
And I shine ’em up and I hit the town.
Well I trim it clean and I roll it up,
And then I take it nice and slow…so what the fuck, man.

Jalamanta makes me feel that California sun way more than any Desert Sessions CD ever has.  You can taste it.  Let it sink into your lazy bones.   And as great as this new CD is sonically, it also makes me want to hear the original.  Nothing can truly upgrade a 20 years love affair with Jalamanta.  As a complimentary piece, I don’t regret owning or listening to it at all.  Hearing guitar parts that used to be beyond the fade is the kind of bait that we nerds line up for.  The 2009 vinyl, with the gorgeous embossed cover and all that delicious photography inside, will remain my preferred way to experience Jalamanta.  The 2019 remix will be the one to play when you want to examine it in more thorough detail.

(still) 5/5 stars

 

Original CD and vinyl releases seen below.

14 comments

  1. An artist you’ve mentioned before, and one I’ve meant to get to, but have held back because, well, you know me and slippery slopes… :) Still, a 5/5 and favourite albums talk makes me think.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. He was in Kyuss and Fu Manchu so chances are you have heard Brant Bjork in some capacity over the years! It is a slippery slope indeed because he releases new albums all the time, and I have 6 or 7 but am still well behind.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. See, this is my fear. I know from what you’ve said that he’s awesome and I know I’ll love it and then I’ll want it all and so I need to control myself. If we find any WHEN we go back to Taranna, I’m in.

        Like

  2. I still really want to be Brant.

    I saw him on the tour for this one, but didn’t have the cash to buy it then and I’ve never managed it since. I think there’s a vinyl reissue with the new cover too.

    Liked by 1 person

        1. Never wanted to be him per se, but did want to hang out with him. Sit in that blazing California sun. Absorb his vibe through osmosis. I don’t think I could live in California.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. I like rain, and I like a nice mild spring too. Don’t need snow. Does a number on my season affective disorder. I could probably spend a month in California with Brant. Wanna come with?

          Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve been tempted to pick this version up on vinyl, but I’ve become a bit reluctant to buy vinyl these days and I wasn’t sure whether I’d be into the remix. Like you say, it’s not the album you know and love, but it can expand on what’s there… whether that’s a good thing or not depends on the album (I’m not into the Monster remix, but I think The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads remix is brilliant).

    Anyhoo, you’ve convinced me to at least pick up a CD copy.

    Like

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