/Jə’raf/’s Throw Neck

/Jə’raf/’s Throw Neck

Photo by Rachel Winslow. Members of /Jə’raf/. From left to right: Brianna Tong, Eli Namay, Bill Harris, PT Bell, David Fletcher, Wills McKenna, Ishmael Ali.

Around March 1, just before the Illinois stay-at-home order was issued, a very rare album full of groovy prog-prophecies found its way into my car CD player. Gifted to me by the one and only PT Bell, rapper and bassist in /Jə’raf/, Throw Neck quickly became a staple of my quarantine soundtrack.

/Jə’raf/’s debut LP came into existence hot off a six month residency of regular shows at Cafe Mustache (for those unfamiliar with the international phonetic alphabet, the band’s name sounds like “giraffe”). A supergroup of heavy hitters from the Chi/NY improvised and DIY scenes, /Jə’raf/ is as virtuosic of a band as the word “residency” suggests. While their songwriting is rarely predictable, the album is interspersed with recognizable structures. Right now I’m in love with the slowly building cabaret track “S.S.H.P”. which all at once recalls Alberta Hunter, the raucous chorus of the Doors’ Whiskey Bar, and the UFO footage released by the Pentagon a couple weeks back.

Throw Neck is bookended by two Hitchiker’s-Guide-esque bassline-driven planetary doomsday bangers, “Black Holes as Waste Management” and “Ballad of the Flat Earthers”. On these tracks, vocalists PT Bell and BriannaTong flaunt elaborate dystopian storytelling. The album ends in a crescendoing horn-section accompanied by a call-and-response in which Tong shouts an improvised list of “Lizard People”. (According to Tong, Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos always get a spot on the list of Lizard People. Micheal Buble does not always get a spot)

“Olive Juice” and “Sad Boi (feels entitled)” are similar in tone. Both tracks are darkly humorous homages to absurd modern character archetypes.

The album dips into more sincere territory on the beautiful crooning slow burner “(This One’s) For the Ether”. If you’re just looking for the bangers, “Oy”, “Fifth Cycle”, and “Umbra” all feature idiosyncratic but danceable drum and bass grooves. But if you’re coming for the bangers you’ll stay for the twisting chromatic melodies and conspiracy-theoretical lyrics that drive this album into earworm territory. If you’re a sad boy, if you’re certain the Earth is flat, if you have an addiction to a porn fetish that’s technically legal, if you’re worried about 5G antennas and/or the NSA, this album is probably for you.

Throw Neck Cover Art by Jordan Martins

The album was recorded by Seth Engel at Palette Sound in Bridgeport, Chicago, and released on Leap day, February 29, 2020. CDs and cassette tapes are available through Chicago labels Amalgam Music and No index, respectively. I spoke with /Jə’raf/ in a zoom meeting and they say that there miiiight be a music video coming out.. sometime. Quarantine makes collaboration and everything else difficult. In summary, a lot has changed in the past couple months. I hope that you, dear reader, are staying safe and sane. Listen to this dang album and give /Jə’raf/ your money!

Buy Throw Neck on Bandcamp!