A sharp left turn from Connan Mockasin, ‘Jassbusters’ is a short yet intricate record that demands your full attention and rewards you greatly for it.
It’s taken me some time to get my head around Connan Mockasin’s latest record, the ambitious ‘Jassbusters’. His previous release, the silky smooth ‘Caramel’ was a much more immediate listen, featuring tracks such as ‘I Wanna Roll With You’ and ‘Do I Make You Feel Shy?’ in which Mockasin’s mesmerising vocals were the focal point for the listener. ‘Jassbusters’ however like its name, places a larger focus on jazz-based instrumentals to draw the listener in.
The album itself is meant to be listened to as part of a wider project. The record is an unconventional soundtrack to a five-part film directed by and starring Mockasin. There are various narration and small skits from who I presume are the film's characters, such as conversations between a teacher and student which hints at a relationship with a dark twist. Unfortunately, listening to the record without any prior knowledge of an upcoming film pretty much guarantees confusion due to the ambiguous nature of these segments.
Despite only lasting 8 tracks and 34 minutes, the record feels lengthy. This is due to the album’s soundtrack ambitions, the result is the record ends up feeling like a continuous suite rather than a full-on record. This isn't a criticism, it actually gives the album a cohesive feel to it.
The music is also incredibly ambitious and creative, as if you could expect any less from Mockasin. Opening track ‘Charlottes Thong’ is a nine-minute, sprawling epic. Slowly unravelling around a thick, sultry bassline which immediately sets the theme of the record. Not many records are able to almost instantly define themselves with the opening few notes like Mockasin has managed to do here. His falsetto is much more understated on the album, especially on the opener. By deciding when to hit those high notes, Mockasin can ooze more emotion into the track, most notably when his voice crack’s on a particular word or phrase. The bass and funk-infused rhythm never subsides and by the end of the track, it feels never-ending. But rather than sick of it, you're actually captivated by the loop. It's pure jazz genius.
‘Last Night’ is the record's heart and soul. Mockasin embodies the spirit of Prince for an utterly captivating and supreme soul moment, one of the few times on the record the instrumentals strip themselves back and give full power to Mockasin’s cries to his lover. A small moment of what sounds like screeching chalk at the track's opening does detract and throw you from the moment though. ‘Con Conn Was Impatient’ is a surprising highlight, the sultry smooth first half see’s Mockasin almost smoulder through the verses before, suddenly, as if he’s been entranced by his own spell Mockasin’s words collapse, into intangible ‘doo-wahs’ and melodic groans.
A few times, however, the album does falter, when seemingly the concept of the album weighs down the instrumentals and themes just too much, there is, unfortunately, such thing as pushing the boundary too much. This is most notable when the skits and lines of dialogue detract from the beautiful and technically wonderful instrumental pieces, most notably in ‘B’nd’ and like previously mentioned the opening to ‘Last Night’.
Closer ‘Les Be Honest’ feels ethereal, Mockasin’s vocals have a transient tone to them as he almost wails the chorus. Just one of many unpredictable moments on the record that only sticks out upon repeated listens. There’s no denying that this is a divisive record from an artist that continues to break boundaries and create his uncompromisable vision. It takes bravado and in essence, you have to be a true artist to create a five-piece film and accompanying record in today’s modern music climate and the result should be applauded.