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Published: 2002/04/22
by Jesse Jarnow

Live Is My Jumby – The Slip

KA Records

You can't lie between brothers. Well, you can – and there's a long and rich
history of family feuds in literature and pop music – but it's pretty damn
hard. In fact, I'd be willing to venture dollars to doughnuts that most of
those feuds started because of honesty and understanding just a little bit
too well rather than deceit and misunderstood intentions. There is something
honest about The Slip's music — which is created by the Barr brothers
(Andrew on drums and Brad on guitar) along with Marc Friedman on bass. There
is no angst or animosity in The Slip's music, and the interesting playing on
Live Is My Jumby comes about precisely because of that. More
importantly, across the five cuts, they hardly coast on this fact.

There is also something undoubtedly organic about the sounds the band
makes, and I suspect that this choice of words is connected to the same
factors that make it "honest". What characteristics point towards this? A
very simple one, though worth pointing out, is that everything comes through
in the mix cleanly. Not only are the guitar and bass not run through
any apparent effects pedals (most of the time), but there is also very
little sustain on either. Neither Brad Barr nor Marc Friedman hold notes for
long periods, seems to me to be a gimmicky way of drawing attention to
what they are doing. Barr's runs on "The Lucky Dragon" are fragmented and
chopped up, fanned almost, and feel as if each note had to be crafted by
hand. Likewise, Andrew's drums sound direct, as if they weren't run through
a PA or anything. They sound direct and real: organic.

Of course, the music isn't actually "honest" or "organic". These are
just ways to describe the sounds. Are they useful ways to describe the
sounds? They certainly provide a way to evaluate the music: what works
within this aesthetic is good, what doesn't is bad. Or, if not bad, then at
least displaced. During the opening "Wolof", Friedman lets loose with a few
chords that sound positively fusiony, electronic, distasteful.
During his solo on "The Lucky Dragon", he employs a distorted echo-laden
tone that sounds out of place. Given that, what Friedman plays can be
described as comical, because he has set up expectations (the organic
sound), varied from them in a surprising fashion (using the effect), and
delivered a punchline (by attempting to play tastefully while using the
deliberately foreign sound). It is what effects pedal are supposed to be
used for. Literally, it is an effect. In that, it is
an obvious effect, inorganic, and therefore out of place.

This leads to a question of, for lack of a better word, The Slip's place.
What are they? How are we meant to understand them? They're Berklee
trained mofos, to be sure, and it comes through in every note that they play
— and they play a lot of them. This is one of the band's faults. It's
mostly okay, because the notes are endlessly chattering, being spat out by
excitable kids who speak a mile a minute and rarely ever breathe and when
they do stop for breath another one fills in the beat. It's still too much,
but at least it's an improvement over the decidedly vocal hippie pop of
Does, their last studio disc, released in the summer of 2000, and
it's sure better than most of the high-status stuff churned out by other
Berklee products.

There is an important methodology at work as the band deconstructs the
melody to "Yellow Medicine" and rearranges it through polyrhythms and
countermelodies. Andrew is a master of improvising polyrhythmically and
staying in focus. His drumming, like that of Billy Martin, is extremely
melodic and has the ability to drive a jam. It is this versatility – that
any of the players can shift back and forth between lead and rhythm, melody
or coloration – that allows The Slip's music such a beautiful fluidity. As
in any good relationship, the status within it shifts constantly.

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