Jonathan Boulet is a name that many will associate with an exuberance for celebrating sunshine. Whether you knew he was from the country of eternal summer (Australia) or not, you would have felt the shimmers in the dreamy warmth of his first two albums.
Tracks like “You Are A Animal” felt redolent of the kind of relentless tribal energy Animal Collective channeled for their album Feels. But rather than achieving an abstract culmination of effects that were at once warm and experimental, Boulet harnessed a more coherent path. This is probably why a cursory glance at his last.fm page reveals that most of the associated tags read: pop and indie.
Way back in 2009, his first single attracted the attention of Kanye West who urged everybody to watch the accompanying music video on his blog. Now in 2014, Boulet is exhibiting a Yeezy characteristic: making bold and unlikely choices in order to achieve a personal vision.
Beginning with some gentle feedback and strumming, Gubba’s opening might lead you to believe that Boulet’s gearing up for what’s most probably expected of him. Instead, about ¾ of the way through what is a very short track, the decibels start ramping up before Boulet demands “Don’t Call Me Champ” like a ghost who’s talking through a broken amp.
Before you’ve begun to wonder whether this abrupt intro is indicative of the whole piece, “Hold It Down” comes in with a satanic energy not too dissimilar from “You Are A Animal” had its gloss been scrubbed off with toxic waste saturated Brillo pads.
Despite the heaviness of the different elements of bass dominating the track, this is actually the most melodic song on the whole album. Throughout the three minutes and thirteen seconds, the low ends on the spectrum of my music player rarely leave the roof. When they do, it’s a refreshing change of texture that highlights how all-pervading Boulet’s self-produced wall-of-sound can be.
It’s telling that a playlist curated by Boulet about two years ago featuring artists like Swans has eventually lead to him experimenting with a heavy, sludgy momentum in his own music. But having said that, he has not lost any of his passion or drive. Gubba is as energetic as anything he’s done before, but rather than creating the pictorial equivalent of a joyous sprint through the forest with the animals, he’s created something more carnal.
Unfortunately, if you’ve never heard of Boulet before, you could easily pass the album off as sounding similar to the works of QOTSA, Sleep or Swans but without ever really sounding as good.
Compelling in some places but overall, more interesting as a study of an artist maturing.