Saturday, June 13, 2009

Andrew Jackson Jihad/French Quarter Split

Or: Fresh Quarter/French Jihad: Mix Tape Volume One: "Valley of the Slum"


This is a split release by Arizona folk-punk group Andrew Jackson Jihad and French Quarter, the ambient/lo-fi folk project of singer/songwriter Stephen Steinbrink. The entire thing is performed live, with both acts not only playing their own material but covering each other as well (French Quarter covers the darkly funny "Another Beer"; AJJ cover "Bold With Fire", possibly French Quarter's best song).

On their side, French Quarter play a relaxing brand of dreamy, atmospheric folk. Soothing and almost ethereal in sound, it comes off very well as a part of the live atmosphere, with both guitar and bass gently plodding along, the latter echoing beautifully among the lighter sounds of the acoustic guitar.

The Andrew Jackson Jihad songs don't translate quite as well here, but while their side comes off as almost (but not quite) hit or miss, it also contains the two most notable stand-outs from this split: the frantic "Sheriff Ochs" and the Dead Prez cover "DPS". The former is everything you expect from Andrew Jackson Jihad at their best and most up-tempo, while the latter is everything you would never think to expect; namely, a rap, performed with stellar instrumental backup. It's as white as you'd expect, but it's also very well done, making it a joy to listen to for more than just the initial novelty. "DPS" isn't the only bit of hip-hop flavour though, as "Fucking Science" also features a spoken word rant on the state of hip-hop, although it feels like more of an extended interlude than anything else. The two songs act as a kind of ode to the genre in question, allowing Bonette and Gallaty to give credit to some of the more non-apparent influences in their music (influences which would surface again with the more recent Operation Stackola EP).

All in all, this is a good full-length split by two strong, proven acoustic acts, catchy where it needs be, and enjoyable the whole way through.

Fresh Quarter/French Jihad

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