Review: Jo – Bumblebee (self-released, May 11)

The story behind Jo’s debut album Bumblebee is one that’s been experienced, in infinitely varied iterations and circumstances, by any practicer of phonography, found-sound composition, or concrète music. The artist traveled to Iceland and captured countless recordings to be examined later, a process they describe as “discovering [their] own musical terrain.” Bumblebee is a brief but dense exploration into the adapting, processing, and combining of recorded sounds into something completely new, the eclectic array of snippets and vignettes assembled with the help of Jo’s unique, indiscriminate ear for natural melody. The provision of the identities of the elements used is helpful, because although there’s very little effects or alterations used on each, the abstract, sculptural manner in which they are put together clouds the original sources. Consistent with the principles of musique concrète, composition is the final step in Jo’s process, which results in musical products that distance themselves from any individual sound; but the inclusion of these clear identifications of their sonic repertoire establishes an interesting connection between listening and assemblage, emphasizing the importance of each auditory event among the others with which they share space. Jo’s songs often approach something otherworldly and alien in their abstractness, venturing into almost synthetic sounding restless pulses on “Wayfare the Broondocks” or disarming marriages of electronic and natural noises on “I Have Done”; but occasionally the only thing removing the final result from its source is the musicality that is coaxed from the most unlikely of materials, such as the cascading scales played on a bridge pillar in “Gewgaw.”