Imperial Jade: 'Please Welcome'
(Lengua Armada, 2015)
Imperial Jade is a band from Maresme. Their music puts memory to use, but not in the same sense that museums do, keeping art frozen into concepts; instead, this band instills new life into old sounds. Their aesthetics, the cover art of the album and even the models of their guitars are clues for the decade they aim to channel through their music.
But going back to the beginning of the 70s playing rock is a risky gamble: perhaps the music is already antique, and the aesthetical values of the age are naught but the memory of a murky dream stained by the fumes of a gas whose price was on the rise, but in our collective memory, musicians from that age remain a noble, unreachable chaste, covered by a coat of unlikely gold. They were the heroes and heroines of a decadence not yet spoiled by the guilty conscience that came with that nightmare called Milton Friedman. Such artists were pinned on the wall of every single unemployed Briton, when unemployment was still a reason to fight, and flooded the record shops of a just unshackled Spain .
We can affirm without a doubt that attempting to play by the rules of such heroes is akin to a gigantomachy from which our puny contemporaries are going to emerge invariably destroyed; however, Imperial Jade show themselves to be perfectly able to confront the Titans with their own weapons and survive to tell the tale.
The band displays their reverence for Zeppelin and Deep Purple and the instincts of glam rock, yet they don't shy away from the guitars of Hendrix or Zappa, the trips across time and space promoted by Wishbone Ash or Uriah Heep, the desertic power of Southern rock or the mechanical, industrial notions of Motor City bands. And, sustaining it all, the undeniable force of the blues, the same blues that wasn't forgotten by Kiss or Alice Cooper, in a time when rock music was a selfish, beautiful monster hat aimed to devour everything.
The band makes music that sounds like a crystallized Sun from a recent past when the big fire in the sky was a deeper and more beautiful symbol of freedom
Their debut album opens with 'Satyr', a high-explosive laden track, that showcases a powerful and strong, yet festive, riff. We soon come to realize that their approach differs from that of other more or less "retro" bands (think Queens of the Stone Age and the whole Stoner rock deal, that made looking back for direct influences a legitimate effort for contemporary rock music) in that they are not afraid to take every single semantic distinction of seventies rock into their own compositions
After several proud, ascendent riffs, 'Mr. Rock and Roll' appears. A glam effort, this song keeps closer to the influence of original 50's rock and roll, with ornaments that show a great mastery of the deeper musical codes that lie within the foundations of rock music from that glorious past. The lead guitar, drunk with distortion, distils playful sounds from Hendrix books, the kind of sounds that are able to play with your perceptions even without the usual trappings of modern production.
'A Rollicking Song' opens with a riff that, behind its evident charm, hides something that is heavier and darker, like cigarettes and beers consumed during a dusty August sundown. Their way of playing with the stereo panning and the voices mix when the instrumental section dies down are a showcase of their great capacity to enjoy their own creations, to take part in rock music as a sacrament. It's strange to find a band whose production values are beyond a simple technical feat, but Imperial Jade manages to evoke deep celebratory feelings gladly and without arrogance.
This happy and powerful feelings continue in 'High on you', an exceptionally physical song possessed by spirits of dance. The prodigious coordination between instrumentalists and singer, and the great compositional respect for blues structures turn this piece into a statement of the diverse talents of every band member. The addition of harmonica is a welcome surprise: we are not before one of that bands whose will to garnish their basic structures with every possible ornamentation lessens their capability to communicate feelings, nor of course before one of those whose will to show themselves as virtuoso rock stars turn their apparent swirls into straight lines of boredom: this band cultivates balance, delicate games and partying instead, and that's a lot to say!
They're capable of making even the lightest sections rise with the help of gloriously assembled riffs
Suddenly, we find ourselves surprised by a hallucinatory phenomenon: a lonely specter drags the chains of its closed eyelids. A lightning, in the shape of guitar strings, hits those eyes in full, and we come to realize those eyes were ours. We can't do anything but opening our eyelids to the light of a different world, that lies beyond the common boundaries of hard rock. Shades of Rush and psychedelic techniques open 'Camel Ride', this long and progressive song that takes us to landscapes where feeling becomes almost mechanic, only to come back in the shape of visions from across time and space, filled with long horizons and unexpected prodigies. Without a doubt, 'Camel Ride' is the album's pièce de résistance, with the voice acting as a human element with which the listener can feel reflected so the instrumental power doesn't take him or her across some dark frontier of experimentality, that would not benefit the ambiance created by the album.
This game of frontiers and highways is continued by 'Highway', where guitars decide to place a gamble on everything (because nothing matters anymore).... a gamble that is eventually won, liberating a light atmosphere where only freedom congeals.
The album ends with 'Fire Burning Sound', that honors its name with warmth. Certain keyboard arrangements in the song's introduction remind us of Pink Floyd but are soon transformed into sonic formulas redolent of the most baroque Deep Purple tracks.
Through the whole album the band manages to insert several light sections that seem to be nearing to a vague decadence, but they're eventually capable of making them rise with the help of gloriously assembled riffs.
The sound that inspires Imperial Jade is that of an opening consciousness, of a blooming adolescence
Every aesthetical approach whose main objective is the emulation of past models can be subject to evident criticisms, but I won't be the one to phrase them against Imperial Jade. It's not only that they manage to avoid comparisons with a single band or school, but also that I'm to emotionally tied to the kind of sound they are searching for.
While the world growed around me, I was inspired by the very same music that they are. With hard and progressive rock from the seventies in my head, the first shot of alcohol fell like a bomb inside my stomach, the skylines of stranger capitals took form before my eyes... with these sounds inside me, my lips kissed the lips of a girl for the first time, sighing afterwards, shooting a smile against the jail of the teen age I was into, whistling, perhaps, one of those glorious melodies. The sound that inspires Imperial Jade is, for me, the free sound of an opening consciousness, of a blooming adolescence.
And, taking their youth into account, they have plenty of time to embark in a project with which bring the sounds they love into the new millenium. In the meantime, they can stay in the seventies, working over the foundations laid by this album. There's nothing wrong in giving the victory of the quarrel between ancients and moderns to the oldies, if it's done with justice.
Text: Dimas F. Otero