As evidenced by the span of samples used to compose multi-instrumentalist Ryan Jewell’s debut album, this artist has already led a fulfilling life before ever giving the world his first widespread document to chew on. Though he’s worked as a nomadic, frequent sideman in bands as varied as Psychedelic Horseshit, Pink Reason and the Wasteland Jazz Unit, Jewell’s true passion veers towards the avant-garde, orbiting electro-acoustic experiments and perpetual collaborations with giants of oft-centered rock, from Greg Kelley to C. Spencer Yeh and even Jandek. With a resume so incredibly stacked, it would be hard to know what to expect from Jewell on record. Luckily, being the guru that he is in local Columbus circles, waiting for such music has blossomed into an all-encompassing reward, as Eschew Obfuscation/Espouse Elucidation lays forth both of the brains Jewell seems to posses.
The first side, “Eschew Obfuscation,” said to be recorded between 2001 and 2010 and then composed in March of last year, is Jewell as wacky sound architect. The suite is a compounded cut-and-paste of nearly a decade of recordings composed with “razor blades and mouse-clicks.” In these wild edits Jewell constructs a marathon on sonic folly. Much like the work of Matmos or the most madcap adventures of early Boredoms, no sound or source is out of bounds. Here there are bits of turntablism, out-of-time field recordings, nitrous flashbacks, ephemeral TV and radio transmissions, bird chirping, and industrial detritus—all spliced with grotesque zeal. But don’t allow the disjointed nature of Jewell’s piece de resistance to confuse. Jewell tends to live by the drum, and as shattered as this is, there’s a constant rhythm, whether it’s in the rewinding of a melted cassette or the smatter of live applause. “Eschew Obfuscation” is as clear-headed as an idiosyncratic collage like this comes and the aural equivalent of a journeyman’s footsteps through the last decade, all the while picking up fragments—be it chaos or calm—on this long strange trip.
“Espouse Elucidation” is the other half of Jewell’s split persona. Side B is a dark, deep, storm-in-the-distance plateau of minimalism. It’s as if one of the bleak creases from the preceding carnival was stretched into a whole movement. “Espouse Elucidation” is a near-silent snapshot of Jewell at work in his element: the moment. The expanse is a heaving, mammoth breath that ascends into a hypnotic death-drone. The track does have life, though. It rings with prayer vibes like a finely tuned Buddha Machine in a subterranean recess, but eventually the sounds disintegrate into a black hole of bliss. Jewell’s patience and virtue as a musician who is able to discard the mischief of the previous side to reveal a meditative monolith is shown. Were you to witness this live, you’d likely be levitating. Such is the unassuming magic of Mr. Jewell.
Kevin J. Elliott