Diving ears-first into a kinder, gentler Jay's sound experience

Sometimes the stars (and the tours) line up just right and you’ve got a very promising Jay’s night with not one, not two, but three touring bands (NOT PUNK ROCK!) tugging your ears in all directions. Who can say why this is (and why some nights when five bands are playing none of it sounds interesting in the least), but it certainly is, and Thursday night promises to be one of those nights. Oh, and looky here: I’ve got some CDs from each of them!

The Scooters: I’ve done the math and shown my work, and by my calculations the Scooters are the first Welsh band to play at Jay’s Upstairs. Not the first to play Missoula, mind; that honor goes to the Alarm, who played the Ritz in October of 2001. But that was kind of a nostalgia tour anyway, and the Scooters are young up-and-comers. The Cardiff quintet have two albums under their belts, 2000’s eight-song Peepshow and the brand-new 11-track I Can See Your House from Here. Both mix quiet acoustic moments with heaps of ambitious jangle, but I Can See…sounds a little more world-weary right from the opening track, “So This Is How It Ends.” Nice harmonies, too, and hey, they’re from Wales (probably over here to buy cheap vowels).

Califone: Mike Apinyakul, is that you? Quit fooling around and come out of that cloning pod. Fans of the (now departed) Missoula-by-way-of-Columbia, Mo. singer/songwriter might swear from “Trout Silk,” the opening track of Califone’s Roomsound album, that the crafty little dickens was recording under the assumed name Califone. Plane the top octave off that dirt-road yowl of Mike’s and you’ve got something like Califone, a kitchen-sink trio that uses the standard drums, guitars, bass and all kinds of synth and computer looping to create hypnotic minimalist country soundscapes that stick to the melody as needed but also wander off into territory suggestive of Angelo Badalamenti scoring something for frogs, crickets and other denizens of a Midwestern lily pond. And they aren’t kidding about room sound, as silence here speaks louder than many of the instruments. I always feel sorry for quiet bands like this at Jay’s because with just one person talking above the band, it’s already much too loud.

Windham Hill on a Quaalude and Boone’s Farm cocktail? Miighty Flashlight is Mike Fellows, who has played with Bill Callahan’s (smog) and pretty much everybody who’s anybody else in Chicago. Or so they say. Miighty Flashlight and Califone have never been seen together in the same room before tonight, and frankly, I have my suspicions. Not much information to be had from the liner notes of his self-titled CD on Jade Tree Records, which are apparently the product of some candle-gazer’s automatic writing exercise or perhaps a cadavre exquis homework assignment from Dada 101. But how can you not like someone who can come up with a line like “We’re running low on prosthetic arms” and notes in his bio that he is “particularly despised as an advocate of ‘free’ driving”?

Jay’s Upstairs: Now 66 percent quieter than ever!

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