Just Got Death

Miella Totomi
Sono Sordo S01

By Ken Waxman

A Power Trio gone rogue, Montreal-based Just Got Death (JGD) matches the ingot-hard guitar flanges of Sam Shalabi with the surging bass thumps of Jonah Fortune and the nimble percussion accents of Michel F Côté in a program of seven originals that ricochet between punk-metal energy and sophisticated improvisation. Like a lapel flag pin which subtly declares the wearer’s convictions, proof of the band’s unique orientation is Côté’s understated drumming. Veteran of ensembles like Klaxon Gueule, his in-the-pocket or chronometer-like percussion pacing is smooth and non-disruptive. On tunes such as “Vagrazo Hallottkemek” and “Early parasitic being” for instance, his relaxed, steadfast rhythms create a solid tapestry upon which adornments, in the form of Shalabi’s finger-picking that sharpen notes with mandolin or banjo-like twangs, plus Fortune’s busy string slides and aggressive beat rolling, create appropriate adornments.

Like a thriller’s surprise ending however, this exposition only tells one part of Miella Totomi’s story. JGD’s other interest appears to be in updating to the 21st Century, the variant of jazz-rock-psychedelic fusion that permeated 1970s music. On several tracks gurgles and guffaws from Craig Pedersen’s muted trumpet and sputtering echoes from Guillaume Dostaller’s JX3P and Wurlitzer add vaporous embellishments to the redwood tough bottom created by the rhythm section. Especially notable is “Non monotono” where the electric keyboardist’s slide-whistle-like peeps bond with the guitarist’s buzzing top-of-neck frails to create a solid mass of pulsating timbres. This too-bulky mixture is only deflated by the trumpeter, whose grace notes provide needed lightness. Elsewhere, before disconnected Wurlitzer wiggles and snapping guitar spirals prevent interludes from breaking their moorings and fly away, Fortune’s consistent ostinato firmly ground them. This type of skillful in-the-moment expansion and recovery underlines the strength JGD displays throughout the disc. The remaining question is why a band that plays such intricate, life-affirming music chose a downer designation as its name?

-For MusicWorks #127 Spring 2017