Mahalas and Jouis in the woods
secret woodland location
The members of Brighton psychedelic band Jouis and I had been talking about getting them down for a semi-acoustic set since last summer, and it finally came together. They chose to end the main chunk of their recent UK tour at the amphitheatre, a night everyone involved will remember for a long time to come...
"Earthly Emerald Eyes"
"Loop" → "What's New Guru" [the latter being an instrumental that sounds like it could be The Boot Lagoon]
"All That Is And Is One"
"Misty Maker Stomp"
"5,878" [the one from the Kaleidoscopic/Psychotropic EP that's reminiscent of The Stranglers' Golden Brown, with some staggering guitar work from JD]
"Yellow Meadow" → "the Medicine Man" [the latter from that EP, the former an old favourite]
E: a jazzy, mostly instrumental thing that I didn't recognise (gorgeous)
Most of these are tracks from their imminent debut album Dojo. They've only put out that one EP thus far, after years of playing and writing together, so there will be a wealth of classic-sounding material concentrated on that disc (which I've heard in pre-mastered form). Recorded in their own self-built studio in Brighton, it was co-produced with Phill Brown!
What really sets Jouis apart from their psychedelic contemporaries are the stunning four-part harmonies — it was like having CSNY coming to sing round the fire in your back garden! And due to the intimate setting and attentive audience, they were able just to sing freely without a forest of vocal mics and an extensive soundcheck. Joe was playing some astonishing "fluttery" bass, other Joe was on acoustic guitar (JD played his electric, but with no effects apart from a little bit of delay, lovely clean, chiming sound, great use of harmonics). Adam played a minimal drum kit with the utmost sensitivity, and Louis brought his Fender Rhodes! They (just about) managed to get this all in one car — the Rhodes is pretty bulky, but it was well worth it. That sound in the woods with those vocal harmonies. Rather than the pallete of analogue sounds Louis normally has access to with his Nord Electro, there was one consistent keyboard sound throughout the set...but it was the best one imaginable. And as Yiannis pointed out, it brought a little touch of The Doors to their sound too, no bad thing.
Afterwards, we found out that they were the most nervous they've ever been about a gig! This was partly due to never having played in this format before, partly the totally focussed listening of the audience (no background chatter to hide behind) and partly the fact that so many people they respect were in the audience, Jouis having as devoted a following around Canterbury as they do anywhere outside Brighton. They clearly loved the experience, though (helped by yet another perfectly still, clear night), staying over and having a lazy breakfast with Miriam and I, then having to make a serious effort to leave despite needing to get back to Brighton.
"Mahalas" turns out to mean something like "neighbourhood" or "ghetto" in at least three languages (including Greek) and is the name of Yiannis' new trio project with Dan (various flutes and slide 6-string ukelele) and Charlie (mini electric bass and percussion). They immediately won everyone over by opening their support set with a jammed-out version of the Breaking Bad theme tune! The've got quite a broad global fusion remit, with Dan playing some raga-like strings, but also adjusting the nut on his ukelele to create a remarkably koto-like sound, used for a piece inspired by something off Ravi Shankar and (Japanese) Friends' East Greets East album. There were also elements of gypsy jazz, Balkan folk, rembetika, various Indian traditions, Lanois-like slide atmospherics, and a Yiannis original called "Sahara" which I've heard him play in other contexts. This was only their second gig, and despite a few very minor wobbles, the improvisational aspects and breadth of musical ambition points in a very promising direction, so I'm sure they'll be back in the woods before long.