Javelin, No Más
Making found art sound like pure pop
When news broke that Javelin, the emerging button-pushing, sample-colliding Brooklyn duo, had signed to David Byrne's Luaka Bop label, many were left scratching their heads. Luaka Bop — home to releases from International iconoclasts like Tom Ze, Os Mutantes, and Zap Mama — seemed a strange landing place. How, for example, would the tiny indie pay all the licensing fees necessary to recreate something as exuberant and steeped in pop history as Javelin's celebrated 2009 mixtape, Jamz n Jemz?
Turns out sample clearance is a non-issue for Tom Van Buskirk and his cousin, George Lanford. On the sprawling, sticky No Mas, Javelin have replayed (and occasionally re-sung) nearly everything that might resemble a sample, transforming their modest duo into a full-fledged band, with a sound as rich but no less lived-in than the original incarnation. From the slivers of New Orleans jazz on "Shadown Heart" to the reggae-infused pop of "Intervales Theme," there's a grainy but gliding quality to these songs. They sound like the best possible Urban Outfitters soundtrack — aspirational wallpaper music.
For the tracks that survived Jamz, like thrilling album opener "Vibrationz," the shift in sound is negligible. The only thing that eludes Javelin here are the 'Gotcha!' snatches of vocal samples from popular rap songs. But they make up for it with carefully inserted Easter eggs. "Tell Me What It Will Be" sounds like a winning chestnut from a Stones Throw lost R&B funk comp and simultaneously a canny reconsideration of cratedigging culture. It's a microcosm for Javelin's accomplishment; they've made found art sound like pure pop.