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Monday, 01 March 2021 22:16

Jack of None: When the Magniloquence of Poetry Meets Experimental Rock

A bunch of Nihilists? That's what I think when hearing Jack of None for the first time. Twisting from a jack of all trade, master of none proverb, this experimental-rock band emits the spirit of rebellion and mystery. Yet, don't let the name fool you; neither their works are meaningless nor absurd. In fact, since 2016, the group has been steadily climbing to the top in the industry, snatching awards and creating unforgettable tracks along the way.

This experimental-rock trio's skyrocketing career may be shocking for many (including myself at first), but not until one finds out the folks behind the wheel. The lyrics compiler is Maxine Syjuco, an internationally-acclaimed poet with various international achievements. The second member is A.G Syjuco, the mastermind behind the eclectic electronic sound, whose skills have been acknowledged by MTV Asia. Last but not least, the astounding riffs are composed by Julian Syjuco, the youngest yet not the least skillful members of the group.

Becoming experimental musicians requires a decent amount of skills and artistic sense, mainly due to the profundity of the genre. Numerous artists throughout the decades have been exploring various approaches to find the perfect recipe for experimental compositions, from mixing noises from objects with common harmony to forsake the concept of tonality itself. Yet contrary to that trend, Jack of None chooses to do the opposite, focusing on more conventional but no less artistic features: the purposely murky ambiance with the poetry-style recitation.

This idea is quite bold and progressive, yet so far, it works expectedly well in Jack of None's compositions.

Released in 2016, the band's first album entitled Who's Listening to Van Gogh's Ear? is immensely thematic; every song inside sings a horrific yet captivating tale. "Hotel Carcass," for instance, embraces the darkness beyond darkness, implicitly recites the process of a cold-blooded hotel slayer butchering its victim. The music is no less on-point; the amalgamation of catchy riffs, slow beats, and electronic fillers create such a romantic yet anxious ambiance, probably depicting the mind of a mentally-ill psychopath who enjoys excorticating the prey.

But when it comes to the musical complexity, "Mrs Stitcher" takes the first place. While giving a similar eerie ambiance as "Hotel Carcass," it implements a more sophisticated approach, twisting both hard rock and electronic genres. Initially starting with a terrifying dissonance intro and uncanny recitation voices, the song continually switches nuances between heavy guitar riffs and typical experimental noises in the middle before eventually intertwining both aspects in a perfect balance. Indeed, a chef-d'oeuvre.

Jack of None may have already had a great start with the first album, but what came after was more mesmerizing. Subsequently, they released The Tattle Tale Heart EP before producing several others and combining them into an album: Who Shot Bukowski?. Unsurprisingly, it was a triumph for the band; the album successfully rose in prominence at New York 16th Independent Music Award, seizing two wins out of eight nominations.

It is undeniable that the second album gives supreme excitement due to the eccentricity, even more from the previous one. Albeit implementing the similar electronic, rock, and spoken-words vocal technique, Who Shot Bukowski? shows more maturity and ingenuity, particularly in instrumentation aspects. Both A.G and Julian Syjuco dare to dig deeper, explore rare noises, and flawlessly merge them into the works. The best part is: everything is done graciously without going too far away from the concept of tonality, or at least from what I hear.

Those consecutive successes marked an excellent start for Jack of None, yet their efforts didn't stop there. After a few years' break, this group decided to come back, creating a new album entitled the Purpose of The Moon. Oddly enough, the hiatus didn't make their capabilities rusty at all, as instead, the music develops quite significantly.

Rather than focusing on only experimental rock, The Purpose of The Moon exhibits the band's effort toward heterogeneity; they are bold enough to snatch several features of different genres, from the jazzy drum patterns at the opening of "Maman" to the typical classical choir which can be found at "Dark the Star." Their instrumentation track, "Monsieur X," is no less mesmerizing either; probably influenced by Minimalism, this song embraces the elegance of repetitive chords and stagnant tempo before giving a flimsy blow to the audiences with some dissonant progressions.

The review won't be completed without praising the mastermind behind the lyrics, Maxine Syjuco. As a matter of fact, the flawless artistic nuances Jack of None has showcased in their works cannot be separated from the poetical sentences and probably won't be as virtuous without. Each well-curated word shows such idiosyncratic charm that compliments perfectly with the music, and after being forged into lines, flawlessly tells us a dramatic story about the shadiest part of the human psyche. Those are what I expect from a great poet – genuinely admirable.

Even though consistency in composition patterns creates unforgettable trademarks for the listeners, it still has a visible drawback: monotonous passages. Consecutively listening to Jack of None's albums makes me realize that this group utilizes a similar format in most of their tracks, revolving around the heavy guitar riffs, electronic fillers, and the poetry-reading vocal style. Fortunately, A.G Syjuco is able to overcome this laxity; albeit sometimes modifying from the already-existed experimental music pattern, the fillers that he applies always give fresh ambiance, enriching their works. Yet, I am still hoping that Jack of None will shock the audiences with the new out-of-the-box concept in the future, and possibly without removing any of their notable characteristics.

Contrary to their capability to produce outstanding songs, Jack of None's competence in utilizing their social media doesn't seem as good. Neither their Instagram nor YouTube has any daily uploads, and even only a few during the promotional period. Fortunately, everyone who wants to follow the update can still go for their website, as the latest news and articles can be found there.

The lack of online presence becomes another obstruction for Jack of None to publicize their works. As far as I know, social media has been proven to effectively reach new audiences anywhere in the world, probably even a better promotion scheme than attending music festivals. Bottomline – improving the social media existence will give benefits and worth trying.

Jack of None has shown such a promising start in 2016, and now, they absolutely demonstrate a promising future as well. The magniloquent poetry of Maxine Syjuco blends perfectly with the experimental music, and albeit repeating similar formats in many of their works, doesn't give any dull impression, thanks to their endless creativity. Hence, whether you are someone who seeks new musical experiences or just a casual listener who is bored with the current trend, try listening to Jack of None's song for once – you will fall in love.


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