Quartet Jouska have followed up their 2016 LP ‘topiary’ with new release ‘from Elson to Emmett’, a four-track EP of slow burners, with emphasis on experimentation and cleaner production values. Whilst they blend various forms of emo, lo-fi and post-rock, it’s somewhat hard to pinpoint exactly how they stand out from the many other experimental indie bands in the DIY/Bandcamp scene. Especially those signed to Exploding In Sound.
If there was one defining way to describe Jouska’s song structures, it would be meandering. Opener ‘calico’ starts off with melancholic textures, as frontperson Doug Dulgarian proclaims “we don’t talk anymore” before the full band spring into action with an explosive ending. Unfortunately, it feels like they chose their strongest song first, leaving the rest of the EP feeling somewhat empty.
Another trope in the Bandcamp indie rock scene is a tendency for the vocals to be drowned in reverb, that try to come across as introspective, but unfortunately end up sounding bland in their delivery. On ‘tummy/legs’, we get dashes of Pile and Foxing sounding elements. And, as far apart as those bands are from each other, it makes for an interesting contrast. This adds somewhat of an uncomfortable feeling as the track trundles along, before sneaking up on the listener with an impactful array of abrasive riffs.
Perhaps that’s all ‘from Elson to Emmett’ really is though, a vague curiosity that doesn’t manage to hook listeners in the same way ‘topiary’ did. Closer ‘swill’ in particular doesn’t feel finished and comes across as half-baked. It shouldn’t be written off entirely by any means, but the various ideas integrated in these four tracks, on record rather than live at least, lack substance.
‘from Elson to Emmett’ EP by Jouska is released on 16th March on Tiny Engines.
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Words by Ashwin Bhandari (@GIVEUPOX17)