Album Review: David Microwave Javelosa – Cyber Steam Cabaret

Pick up this record and give it a quick look; you’ll be forgiven if you mistake it for Crosby Stills Nash & Young’s Déjà Vu. The cover art explicitly aims to create that impression, with similar colors, textures and typefaces. But blink and you’ll realize that it’s something very different. And that’s even before you slip the record out of the sleeve and drop the needle on the latest from David “Microwave” Javelosa.

The music is sometimes synthesizer based. In places – as on “Spacetime Howard” – the character is reminiscent of Bay Area artists (The) Units, with a vibe that combined cold electronics and evocative vocals. But elsewhere, things go in a very different direction: the opening track “Free Two” features keening, sawing violincello; were it not for the squeaks and squawks, it would be hypnotic. And then there’s the irresistible robotic dance floor rhythms of “Safety Check.”

“D-Day part one” is delightfully goofy, combing otherworldly synth sounds of the most analog variety with some intentionally cheesy organ (or, more likely, vintage synth on the “organ” setting). Javelosa is in turns playful and subtly malevolent on these varied cuts. Just when one mood is established, he changes things up, keeping the listener on their toes (in a good way).

Most of the album’s ten tracks clock I nat customary pop-song length. But “Night Club Scene” – sounding like something from Pee Wee’s Playhouse – is much shorter. The title track goes the other way, extending over the 15-minute mark. It’s a skittering, swirling, nearly musique concrete affair, reminiscent of what the soundtrack to an advanced case ADD might sound like. But again: in a good way, if you can imagine.

Grab-bag pop culture references abound, if sometimes subtly so: the back cover photos include one that might – might, I say – be of Adrienne Barbeau, cousin of the great musical auteur Anton. And a sleeve insert photo mimics the back cover of Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma to most amusing effect.