First things first: this is not a jazz album. In fact, it’s about as far removed from jazz as it’s possible to be. Where jazz employs a rhythmically diverse approach, tending towards complexity and improvisation, “Jazz Mind” from Ed Schrader’s Music Beat is music at its simplest.
Repetition, basic time signatures and minimalist instrumentation are used to create a surprisingly unique sound. Its simplicity is reminiscent of the do-it-yourself ethic of punk, particularly the more extreme songs like “Rats” and “Gas Station Attendant”, all angry shouting and fuzzed-up bass. At times the repeated lyrical themes give a shaman-like aspect to the vocals, as they are reinforced to an almost hypnotic extent.
The album begins with the angry street preacher assault of “This Is My Sermon”, the vocals – more haranguing than singing –accompanied by a repeated bass note and basic drum pattern. It’s an arresting start to the album, which is swiftly followed (only one song on here is much longer than two and a half minutes, and that’s because it appears to be two songs combined) by a change of tone in “Gem Asylum”. The shouted vocals give way to a more melodic approach, with Schrader employing a softer, soothing, singing style.
“Right”, with its insistent bass is very much a chant with a groove, its middle section dispensing with the drumming and turning down the bass to the extent that the vocals appear almost unaccompanied, a striking contrast to the rest of the song.
“Rats” is a jarring return to the angry vocal style of the first song, and clocks in at a very short one minute and forty three seconds. The overriding impression is of something that needs to be expressed quickly and explosively before it is lost; and once it is out there, the band can move on rapidly to the next idea.
Most striking are the album dynamics: the tone moves from quiet, almost calm, to frenzied, in your face outbursts, with no warning of the on-coming rage.
What Ed Schrader’s Music Beat has done with this album is to produce a sound that could not be mistaken for anyone else, something for which the duo should be applauded. Composition is basic and instrumentation is spare: there is no guitar; occasionally the bass is distorted; sometimes reverb is used on the vocals to add colour and variation. Ultimately reaction to this record will depend on what the listener wants from their music: virtuoso playing it is not, but visceral, direct and occasionally surprising it most certainly is.