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Jonathan Segel - Superfluity

  by Kimberly Bright

published: 31 / 10 / 2017

Jonathan Segel - Superfluity
Label: Freeworld
Format: CD


Latest solo double album from Camper Van Beethoven’s Jonathan Segel which is freeform, varied, and sometimes difficult

Multi-instrumentalist and composer Jonathan Segel started out with the quirky post-punk Camper Van Beethoven over thirty years ago, still an ongoing project, and has since constantly worked on a variety of collaborations (Chaos Butterfly) and side projects (Sideways, Virginia Dare, Granfaloon Bus, Dieselhead, Fred Frith, Shoko Hikage, The Plastic Pals), in addition to his occasional new bands (Hieronymous Firebrain, later renamed Jack & Jill, Sista Maj), and compositions for film, theatre, and dance companies. On his latest solo venture, the double album 'Superfluity', he draws on his long-standing background of experimental music and avant-garde improvisation. 'Superfluity' is an unclassifiable mix of folk (American and what might be Central European and Eastern European), rock, jazz, and prog, ostensibly about “the significance and insignificance of love, life and, well, everything.” This vague but ambitious mandate encompasses personal struggles, the inevitability of death, love, and navigating relationships. Musically the album is free-flowing with familiarly cynical lyrics, occasional glimpses of vulnerability, and pervasive dark humour: “Cat makes the rules and mouse breaks them/Mouse makes a move and cat shakes him” ('Cat & Mouse'), “Burning trees smoke in the breeze” ('Rain Down'), and “The damage we do and the shit we say…It’s not just the wicked who have such enduring faults” (from the amazing 'Sleep For A Hundred Years'). Impressive vocal harmonies by Kelly Atkins and Sanna Olsson shine throughout the album, particularly against layered arrangements, Segel’s violin, acoustic guitar lines, and choppy, dystopian visions. 'No Backup Plan' is probably the most accessible track, a radio-friendly classic indie rock song with the self-deprecating admission “I really hope it works out this time/‘Cause I’ve got no backup plan.” 'Rain Down' has an energetic guitar interlude that sounds quite a bit like mid-career Pink Floyd. 'Strawberry Sun' is lush and romantic, a perfect moment of watching a lover smile as she enjoys a strawberry. 'Imply It, Deny It' has a laid-back jazz opening before rattling into a 90's alt-rock riff, a prog exploration, then back again. What overshadows both discs are freeform improvisations (such as 'Like Mercury, It Slips Through Your Fingers') lasting up to twenty-four minutes, including an interminable secret track 'Phenomenon and On' on Disc 1, or sound collages that, while intriguing and sometimes referencing previous songs, don’t really add anything substantial to the album after the first few minutes. Some listeners may enjoy the lengthy mournful, hazy 'The Dying Stars' on Disc 2, but others may dismiss it as self-indulgent guitar noodling. For anyone open-minded enough to give 'Superfluity' multiple listens, Jonathan Segel does provide musical subtleties and changes of direction that one might miss the first time around.

Track Listing:-
1 Equilibrium, Pt. 1
2 Mouse
3 Cat & Mouse
4 Imply It, Deny It
5 The Seventh Wave
6 Rain Down
7 Sleep for a Hundred Years
8 Silent Notes
9 Like Mercury, It Slips Through Your Fingers
10 Mystery
11 The Luxury of Living
12 Strawberry Sun
13 Superfluity
14 The Luxury of Dying
15 No Backup Plan
16 The Dying Stars
17 Equilibrium, Pt. 2

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