Ploughing Snow-Dusted Souls: jj, nº3.

We’ve all come across some scruff ball in the corner of the schoolyard that for one reason or another, you feel an unreserved resentment towards. For me, it was some youf a handful of years my junior whose front teeth fell out before mine. Perhaps you’re still fortunate enough to don school uniforms and be safe in the knowledge that if you rip your linens on asphalt playing fields, they’ll be all stitched up and ready to go by morning. Then you can carry on kicking deflated footballs around the faded boundaries of a tarmac haven. But if you’d traded sport paraphernalia for musical instruments and headed for this year’s SXSW, and mysteriously wound up with a press pass to evade those reptilian queues, that envied rogue on the fringes of uniformity would have been jj.

And so what of this extradited outcast? So much kerfuffle has been kicked up around the Swedish duo that it almost feels courageous to actually press play on nº 3, like plucking up the gusto to mumble a word or two to the disturbed souls behind any façade of alternative edge. Before delving into the panpipes and chimerical vocals of jj’s Elin, a few ground rules, having already had them rammed down our collective throat like the cement and bricks that builders send bumbling down those plastic snakes, ought to be established. 1) Having played seemingly every branded venue under the Texan sun at the aforementioned SXSW showcase as high as Damon Albarn in Afghan poppy fields, jj’s hazy spurts of artistic vagueness are lo-fi, and heavily influenced by, well, being under the influence. 2) They’re not too fond of human interaction, interviews etc. and all that awkwardness juts out of the LP like Cornwall lurching out into the sea. And 3) their fate following the ebbing tide of hype upon which they’ve cruised into this world is about as uncertain as Osama Bin Laden’s existence.

Gratuitous rambling aside, nº 3 is actually, shock horror, a gorgeous record. Seriously. Don’t judge this one by its sleeve artwork that looks as though fellow unnerving Swede Eli from Let The Right One In dribbled her vamp juice on powdered snow, as its equally warming as it is cold shouldered, haunting and disorientating.  A little like the tendencies of a thermoregulatory gland, if you will. Elin wails a little like Florence on enough tranquilisers to floor a herd of elephants on quaint opener My Life, before the Arabesque synthetic strings of And Now turn body temperatures to blood-evaporating climes, as claustrophobic chimes enwrap churlish vocals like space blankets enveloping London Marathon survivors. Search Youtube for the bone-tingling accordion-led Let Go and you’ll be greeted with a live rendition that commences with Elin proclaiming “I'm so high”. Listen to the track and even the most sober of states is whisked into a flailing abyss akin to that aroused by ethanol, nicotine and any other coma-inducing intoxicant. Then for the hangover, and following its tribal climax shine the blindingly bright synths of Into The Light. Not the most effervescent of beacons on the record, far more endearing is the infantile naïvety of Voi Parlate, Io Gioco, or You Talk, I'll play; a playground taunt as puerile as it sounds, rubbed up against the expansive imagination of Richard Burton and his impeccable soundtrack elections. The Peruvian panpipe sounds of Golden Virginia empower the best ode to tobacco since the Camel Blues of Rufus Wainwright’s Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk, whilst the nostalgic tinges of You Know throws up visions of peeling away adhesives that coat it to expose a lost Cardigans hit. As No Escapin’ This, the breathy closer to nº 3 that weighs approximately the equivalent of two Quavers floats off into thin air, you’re left with the nagging sensation you probably ought to have got sociable and hopped on jj’s gleaming, pristine white horse-drawn bandwagon a couple of stops earlier. As too, should have I.