Lightman Jarvis Ecstatic Band's 'Banned' Finds Beauty in Unpredictability

BY Paul BlinovPublished Jun 22, 2021

Sprawling over 200 acres of precambrian shield near Gravenhurst, ON, is an outdoor art gallery called the Tree Museum. It's hosted some 80 artists in residence since 1998, letting them create works that engage with — and add to — its uncultivated landscape. It's also the site of creation for Lightman Jarvis Ecstatic Band, a collaboration between Yves Jarvis and Tasseomancy's Romy Lightman. The pair decamped to the Tree Museum for two weeks of improvisational creation, with Lightman on synths, Jarvis on drums and guitar, and the landscape itself as an adroit creative partner.

Banned, the resulting album, blurs the lines between internal and external space. Its 15 tracks manifest sounds as sculpture, emphasizing textures as much as melodies, and, restlessly twisting, like the field recording of a dream. Lead single "Elastic Band" is key entry point: a rubbery bass line and stomping drum pattern carry its whispery, echoing vocals, finding moments of melody and emotional tumult as instruments drop in and out. 

Moods are conjured in unpredictable, shifting ways: the instrumental "Becoming" pairs vaporwave reverberations with unpredictable staccato notes for a meditative effect, while "Mother's Rope" finds a more ominous, Jandek-ish tone with the repetition of lines like "someone broke character" over a clattering beat. The tireless drum run of "Bone of a Hound" builds emotions with a snaking bass line, before giving way to the twisty rhythms of "Ein Sof."

Some of its improvisations feel more impenetrable than others. But the album's unpredictable nature gives it some of its finest moments: "Stomach Pit" starts as a rattling jam that suddenly reshapes itself around a beautiful vocal with handclap backing. It feels like a discovery, and with moments like that, Banned seems as much of a place you explore as an album you put on. It beckons you to disappear into the surroundings it conjures, to look for its hidden gems, to let the improvisational creativity that forged it wash over you, too. It's a big ask, but a credit to the strength of its collaborators that doing so offers so many rewards.
(Flemish Eye Records)

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