Javelin Live at Brooklyn Bowl

Simon Hewitt, Cambridge Audio’s Director of Marketing, visited Stereophile HQ to demonstrate the Cambridge Audio Minx Air one-box Bluetooth system. Hewitt says Cambridge Audio’s business is exploding thanks to the Minx Air. It makes up 15% of Cambridge’s current profits. Meanwhile, Cambridge is busy building more speaker lines as their fathering company, Audio Partnership, fades out mass distribution of Mourdant-Short.

Minx Air is currently available in two sizes, the Minx Air 100 ($449) and the larger Minx Air 200 ($599). It features Airplay, on-board Internet radio, and bass EQ that can be controlled via app. I played three synced Spotify playlist selections transmitted via Bluetooth from my iPhone. At the end, Hewitt asked, “What was that first track you demoed?”

“That was ‘L’Ocean’ by Javelin!”

I’ve listened to this song every day since March 5th.

“It was really full of sonic information.”

“Yes! I’m going to see them tomorrow at Brooklyn Bowl.”

On March 5th, 2013, Javelin released their most recent full length album, Hi Beams, a tropical flavored slightly New Wave collection of quirky yet endearing pop melodies lush with three-part alien harmonies, deep grooves, and bubbling arrangements of punchy bass guitar, synthesizers, cello, and brass.

“L’Ocean” asks questions of self-discovery:

Did you take the time to
Do just what you wanted?
Something deep inside you calls you up…
…So far from who you are.

The song climaxes at a canon of intertwisting lines echoing of Yes and the mixed meters of Leonard Bernstein.

On April 27, 2013, my brother and I attended their concert at Brooklyn Bowl. Javelin took the stage at exactly 10:30pm.

Only percussion captain George Langford could be heard at the start. One microphone hung high above his two crash cymbals. Langford bopped his drum-pad for larger-than-life marimbas while keeping the offbeat with his short-rattled snare drum. Steadily, Tom Van Buskirk’s auto-harmonized vocals and fuzzed out electric bass guitar entered. Buskirk’s samplers, the heart of their music’s midrange, then filled out the sound.

A panel of shiny multi-colored boomboxes vibrated with the music behind the band. They were not Cambridge Minx Airs.

Just before “L’Ocean”, the soundman discovered he had a subwoofer knob and asked himself, “What does this thingie do?” He proceeded to wash out the mix with gut-wrenching bass. Loops and automated backup vocals were lost in the mud.

Regardless, the band’s overall performance was as articulate as their record. Langford sweat hard while crashing away at his cymbals in precise alignment with their odd cadences. Buskirk showed amazing dexterity never flinching to adjust his multitude of gear, but his vocal performance was short of human connection as he preferred to stare at the ground or his wall of boomboxes than communicate to the audience. Maybe it’s a Brooklyn thing, or maybe he’s just an observer of the world from afar. He sings in the Sinatra-esque “The Stars,”

Look for the stars that light the way
See how they burn so far from us
Cannot explain the force of their rays
Because they burn and turn us to dusk

The words balance vivid and inviting imagery with witty yet condescending speculation. The theme of wanting more but being burned by the results is repeated on Hi Beams. Buskirk may not be speculating the ambitions of others but fearing his own. As a band that started as part of the Brooklyn sneer club, with jokester hip-hop and rhythmic-reference music, maybe Buskirk is still coming to terms with the fact he’s now making true-to-form pop music, an ambitious art form, which differs from the anti-aspiration Brooklyn sentiment. His discomfort on stage exemplified his uneasiness with his new role. To paraphrase “L’Ocean”, is Buskirk far from who he is? Or is he starting to do what he's wanted all along?

The deep-grooves, courageous melodies, and questions of self-identity found on Hi Beams can be can be streamed in full from Spotify and then purchased as MP3, FLAC, CD, and/or LP via Javelin’s website.