Yesterday a package arrived. By the Amazon logo printed on the side of the box, I knew it was finally time to crack open new material from Transatlantic, Buckethead, and Jupiter Sunrise. That last one in particular excited me since an ad for the cd, May the Box Burn Down around You, was the first sign of life I’d seen from the “collective” once composed entirely of vegans since the noteworthy Under a Killer Blue Sky.
This morning I sat back and absorbed all 38 minutes of the new work, and I tell you what: I cannot wait for this record to be released!
As I listened to the ten original tracks, all fully mixed and produced, I foolishly began to think that the cd in my computer had been completed and advertised for sale. The band themselves disagree.
On Tuesday, January 19, 2010, a blog post appeared on Jupiter Sunrise’s MySpace with the subject line “NEW Exclusive Music”. Below was a Tunecore widget through which I could stream or purchase the songs from May the Box Burn Down around You and the line “Here is a convenient way to listen to and purchase some new tracks before everyone else does!”
Amazon posted the full album in mp3 format for track-by-track $0.99 downloads on November 6, 2009. One month later, they began selling a hard copy, which I purchased without fully understanding the finely printed caveat:
“CD-R Note: This product is manufactured on demand when ordered from Amazon.com.”
Since a jewel case and liner were promised, I wasn’t sure what to make of the footnote. The cd that arrived wasn’t labeled in sharpie – it was printed with artwork matching the liner, which displayed the picture you see at the top of this post (also seen on the band’s MySpace) and a tracklist.
By all rights, it looked like a legitimate product, albeit one with lackluster art direction. And all of the songs were there! Truly, your guess is as good as mine on this one.
If I may push your furrowed brow to a fully hanging head, note that the Jupiter Sunrise MySpace makes the following distinction:
UKBS Line-up: Mark Houlihan, Ben Karis, Chris Snykus, Aaron Case, Marshall Altman (producer)
Currently: Mark Malek, No’a Winter Lazerus (producer)
(If it concerns you that all of my information comes from MySpace, please find an active page on the jupitersunrise.com or .net domain and direct me to it. Otherwise, there isn’t much information out there on our intrepid heroes.)
What is problematic about the line-ups, you ask? All of the songs on May the Box Burn Down around You were written and sung by Mark Houlihan, who appears to no longer be a member of Jupiter Sunrise. Curiouser and curiouser!
Indeed, the content is very much what one would expect if Ben Karis split and the rest of the “collective” carried on, though perhaps shy on variety. The whole 38 minutes remind me of Cherry Wine, originally recorded on the prelude known by fans as the “Purple Demo” (2002). Heaven and Endless, the desperate and anthemic closer from Under a Killer Blue Sky (2004), receives two sequels on this sophomore LP. (Or will, I guess, once it comes out.)
There is an overriding acoustic spirit framing every song, though plugs are far from absent. Houlihan seems to have a close, personal relationship with his nylon strings, one he cherishes aloud in My Guitar Is My Pillow. For irony’s sake, this final song uniquely eschews picking for plunking as a grand piano takes center stage.
Styles and rhythms stave off monotony, as Jupiter Sunrise (or whatever Houlihan-based poseurs these are) ranges from Latin dance Fountain of Joy to the haunting coos of Primary Colors of Darkness. Yet an overall lack of virtuosity across the instruments deprives each song of the full potential that is so easy to envision.
Since I credited Jupiter Sunrise with effective use of instrumentation on their previous album in an earlier post, this weakness leads me to question the current composition of the band. With the confusion mentioned above, this question hasn’t much faith that its answer is in sight.
Under a Killer Blue Sky has long been a niche favorite of mine. With the band far from stability, I had great hope but shaky confidence that a subsequent outing would ever be forthcoming, to say nothing of the quality I had expected. Now I’ve taken a gut shot from the unexceptional grade of the album and I remain in the ring to suffer more until I can find some closure and put to rest the oddities surrounding the CD-R that I bought.
Jupiter Sunrise: whoever you are, whenever you are, I hope you find your way back home.