Release Bandcamp, SoundCloud only, 2023.
The album called Mr Jenkins gleefully breaks rules while attempting a pleasing if menacing experience for any listeners who may come upon it. Hopefully it's better to have it lying around than not.
XAW and SA traded off the drum kit and guitar between the long foundational jams that led to Mr Jenkins. XAW's distinctive confident ambient drone guitar commits itself fully to the flowing psychedelia. SA's guitar teases apart hypnotizingly slow, simple, melodic riff motifs.
XAW's drumming lands the songs as a whole in the psych rock category though unquestionably the album's Rock is Experimental, with Noise Rock and Drone elements. Both of them drum in a more sophisticated way in other work, as this is their most basic expression.
Even though they're having a glorious time when jamming, the XAW jams with SA when SA is on percussion tend to sound threatening, or like a warning of a threat, due to SA's primal, outlandish, intense exploration of rhythm and off-rhythm. Some of the influence of the her sound comes from naked wilderness drum circles, powwows, many years playing the house with the Ruby Fire Household Orchestra, and resonance with early Swans, Meg White, and Melungeon roots. While some of their collaborations resemble horror movie soundtracks building upon themselves, like "Bonestorm," in these, they are closer to sweaty Swans mixed with psych rock.
From her father's side, that is SA's ethnicity: a group of escaped slaves, mixed with Native Americans, made into outlaws due to not being considered white, so not allowed to live and work on the flatlands. They were relegated to the infamous hills of Hancock county Tennessee, where they feuded, made gin from the juniper berries that grew up there, where no officers of justice dared go. Her grandfather traveled to Indiana to run a gambling joint while her grandmother ran a hotel with the dancing girls that SA's father would watch from his bedroom after finishing making bathtub gin and practicing his deadly stance with a gun. Or was it a finger gun?
Her father used to entertain SA by showing how he practiced his fascinating lean, masculine way of standing like a Western movie star with, with his back wisely against the wall, drawing his hand out of his pocket and fake-shooting, eyes narrowed. That's what this album is like. Or is it?
Who is Mr Jenkins?
XAW and SA play hardily, with full-on ridiculous characters they go into, with silly voices, improv songs, elaborate wordplay, and ever-developing scenarios. One of the somewhat dangerous characters they return to often is Mr Jenkins. There's the likelihood that you really can't trust him to stay who he says he is. He's a little slippery, sometimes a Captain, sometimes a Lieutenant, sometimes a Mr. You can never be quite sure what he looks like, as his suspicious appearance seems to conveniently morph as well.
What are the songs about?
"Songs" may be an overstatement.
SA chose all these instrumental pieces because they portray a sense of being tough, navigating a rough, tumultuous world. SA put the album together during the crazy endless storm period in the transition between 2022 and 2023. Adding many layers of stems to each piece such as silver flute, melodica, and the synth giving it its kosmische feel, then doing the sound design to give it a sense of gritty unfamiliarity to maneuver, she turned the theme into a hard and heavy kaleidoscopic story of messy survival.
Not only making it out alive physically but also self-protection from too much vulnerability in interacting with personalities that may have damaging aspects. The dark side of humanity, and individuals close to us, is what ultimately underlies this album. That's not a joke. But sometimes, playing with the darkness and forming risky alliances or isolating are the best ways to for fighters to bond. To fight against the others by having each other's backs, to fight the surrounding darkness with play, to protect against the horrors of each other and of oneself through goofing around or hitting the drums like madmen.
There's a storm motif in the album, such as in "Storm Cellar," evoking a group of somewhat militaristic people heading for a storm cellar or something playing a twisted role of that den of safety. Listening to the song, one can't help but imagine the shaky hierarchies that are established and enforced against the chaos of the place as the storm continues on and on, making the above-ground uninhabitable.
Being rough and ready on the streets once its dry enough, the characters maintain their intimidating factor, though the sabotagingly cartoonish art undercuts it. When we look at their images, the fighters ("Rumble Ready") and swaggerers ("Don't Mess with US") are hard to take too seriously, just like XAW don't take always carry the sinister persona or take the album overly seriously.