The art of sampling has gone through so many permutations since the early days of hip-hop, and has gone from cutting edge to passé in so many repeating cycles, that the whole concept of borrowing and recombining musical elements from old sources has become just one more ingredient common to nearly all dance music subgenres, kind of the way almost every soup recipe has onions in it. For Tom Van Buskirk and George Langford of Javelin, the idea of sampling is more about lifting explicit influences and re-creating them than looping actual recordings (though they do some of that as well). On Javelin's first full-length album, the result of their five years of experimentation is a unique sound that can perhaps best be summed up as "silly vocals and serious grooves.
Even blog bands need an iconic image, and Javelin hit the interwebs with an especially effective one-- a mountain of painted boomboxes, fronting the Brooklyn duo's table of samplers, turntables, drumpads, and various other misfit musical toys. Not only did it look pretty boss as a jpeg, it also was pretty accurate visual shorthand for their sound: Less turntablism, more an FM tuner shoulder-jostling between low-watt stations playing electro, funk, world music, and early hip-hop. Javelin first parceled out that unique approach with a series of mixes and singles, most of which were hazy and fidelity-challenged enough for people to lump them in with chillwave.
That pounding of hooves you can hear is the sound of impatient music fans charging toward their computers, demanding to hear new artists approximately 0.333 seconds after their names have floated out into the blogosphere. Take Javelin, for example. George Langford and Tom van Buskirk are two crate digging cousins from New York, who swiftly released an entire album of demos titled Jamz n Jemz in 2009 after their name bubbled to the surface.
Javelin could have easily slipped past the independent music radar this year. Their pitch was nothing groundbreaking, but fortunately their delivery was. After their demo, Jamz n Jemz, received some pretty decent feedback last year, cousins George Langford and Tom Van Buskirk readied their first full-length for debut through Luaka Bop Records. No Más, Spanish for “No More”, stands out largely because of its production value; the Rhode Island duo created 15 simple, happy songs, each more carefully crafted than the last.
Javelin has the same nostalgic, hazy vibe and shoegaze synth loops as chillwave pioneers like Neon Indian or Memory Tapes, but sets them against old-school hip-hop beats. There's also a penchant for lo-fi instrumentals, even if the crackle and fuzz is less apparent on No Mas than it was on their 2009 demo, Jamz n Jemz, and a recurring theme of funk and world music samples. It's a travesty that highlights from Jamz n Jemz, like the 3-minute sex ed romp STD Fury or blisscore cartoon theme Tryouts didn't get carried over.
There was a sense not just of effortlessness but also of inevitability in Javelin’s demo release, last year’s Jamz n Jemz. It was nostalgic, whimsical, capturing much of what indie pop was about in 2009 while being independent of any hastily-christened scene or movement. Tracks like “Lindsay Brohan” and “STD Fury” were shots of unadulterated, effervescent glee into our earholes; that George Langford and Tom van Buskirk were clearly getting a genuine kick out of their music was as refreshing as the songs themselves.