At Kompakt they want to play at making Jatoma a very mysterious project we will be wondering who’s behind. All right, let’s play. Or not—it doesn’t matter because the trick of anonymity isn’t anything to lose sleep over at this stage of the game. Why should we? It tends to be irrelevant information, as normally whoever’s behind it all is a “nobody” (with all due respect). The case of Jatoma looks to be what Richard Brophy identified in his article published in PlayGround in anonymous techno as the “marketing of anti-marketing.” With Jatoma, specifically, nothing is revealed about the artists behind the project precisely so that people will talk. I suppose that the fact that I am writing this review right now instead of another confirms that this strategy is working well for them. What do we know about Jatoma? It is three people, if they aren’t lying to us. They say that their combined ages add up to 68. To wind us up even more, Kompakt says that one of them might possibly be a highly prestigious producer helping two talented teenagers. They are Danish and they sound liquid, like affected trance-pop in the style of The Field. It’s these last two bits of information that should really interest us.
Denmark + hypnotic emo-techno seems to be a frequent combination lately, and with a high level of quality. I’m thinking of Kenton Slash Demon –particularly their 12”, “Matter”– and I’m thinking of Eim Ick, already preparing material for the Barcelona label Hivern, and of course we mustn’t forget the tech-house surround-sound precedents from a few seasons back, Trentemøller and Martinez. This is where Jatoma is coming from, in general terms. These references might help us to speculate on the trio’s real identity (if it really is a trio): Martinez with a couple of young bucks? A parallel project of KSD? But like we said before, it doesn’t matter, and none of this matters at all because, considering that it’s a debut –the first thing that Jatoma has released after a single cut, “Helix”, on Kompakt’s last compilation, “Total 11”, and which appears here at the end—it has the solidity of a concrete wall, at the same time that it sounds as light as a feather.
“Jatoma” is, basically, a delightful album. It has moments that could work at a club—it has a shine and an inclination towards sensory pleasure that brings to the mind images of ecstasy and glazed eyes—but it’s main intention is to keep you company at home. For every fragment where the beat takes off and the music heads into that Bermuda Triangle between the liquid trance of The Field (an obvious influence from “Little Houseboat”, the start of it all), the psychedelia of Blondes, and a cosmic air like the latest 12”s from Border Community, there are two more fragments where Jatoma puts on the brakes and gives us imperceptible melodies, strange samples, and tenuous ambient with a hallucinatory softness. They explain that their production method blends the treatment of field recordings—and some of these recordings, more than being from the field, are from home, like Herbert’s: kitchen utensils, food cut in slices, etc.—with software, and perhaps this variety (and the naiveté that it transmits) is the reason why Jatoma sounds so human, so close, and, therefore, so appealing.
This is the typical album that you end up playing more than you expected to, without knowing why, even though you know it isn’t as good as “Yesterday & Today” (The Field), for example, and it doesn’t have a song that’s as well-rounded as “A Break in the Clouds”. But it has everything in intelligent proportions: arpeggios, cascades of harp notes, distant voices, micro-sounds, transparent ambients, compressed beats that get under your skin, the outline of a song that is aborted and turns into a techno hymn to get your hands up in the air to, alone in your living room (I can’t get over “Bou”). It offers warmth for the winter, and a pastoral inclination that will surely have us digging up the CD and taking it out again next spring. So remember the name. We don’t know and we don’t care who is behind Jatoma, just as long as they live up to the enigma.
* Listen here.