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Brothers in arms

LA duo Jerkagram mix heavy stomps and lulling psychedelia

Jerkagram run the gamut of heavy psych. Photo credit: Shannon Corr

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In the late ‘60s, there existed a band consisting of three sisters: Dot, Betty, and Helen Wiggin. Dubbed the Shaggs, to take advantage of the popularity of a then-current hairdo, the band was assembled by their tyrannical father, who was told by his mother on her deathbed that the girls would someday form a successful pop band. The sisters were forced out of school, made to learn how to play instruments, and subsequently released an infamous LP called Philosophy of the World.

To any rational ears possessed by people with even a passing familiarity with pop music, the Shaggs are unlistenable. It almost sounds like the poor Wiggin sisters are playing their instruments upside-down. It's telling that the Shaggs disbanded as soon as their overbearing father passed away. Still, the album has become a cult curiosity, inspiring Franz Zappa to dub the Shaggs "Better than the Beatles."

What remains the oddest thing about how the Shaggs sound, though, is that - while their music is utterly chaotic - the Wiggin sisters are always perfectly in line with each other, no matter how nonsensical the rhythm or chord progressions are. Maybe it's a form of sibling telepathy that kept the Shaggs in sync with each other; maybe only those with shared DNA could possibly keep up with such irrational music.

While the music of Jerkagram doesn't touch the idiosyncrasy of the Shaggs (very little ever could), there may be something to be said for their sibling bond. Fraternal twins Derek and Brent Gaines make up the LA duo, and they seem dedicated to the idea of keeping their music always shifting in tone and perspective. Experimentation seems to drive the creative process of Jerkagram (the less said about that name, the better), resulting in albums like Tired Old Horses#@%, which features just three songs in ever-increasing lengths. "Stone Mouth" comes out of the gate swinging, with stomping, snorting ferocity, before giving way to the spacy expanse of "No-Brainer." By the time the 14-minute slow-burn of "Melt Your Bones" closes out the album, Jerkagram have run the gamut of heavy psych.

Mathy elements mingle with post-rock, sludge, and all manner of percolating texture to create something that lulls you into a trance before Jerkagram suddenly snaps you out of it with an abrupt left turn into significantly brasher territory. While the main duo consists of the Gaines brothers on guitar and drums, they wisely change things up now and again by featuring guests on bass and cello, which helps to add depth to what otherwise err on the shallow side. Even with Derek Gaines frequently looping his guitar parts to create a more complex sound, some variance is always welcome.

Large portions of Jerkagram songs are just instrumental, but when the shared vocals come in, they have the feeling of Southern California hardcore. The vocals make a bit of an odd pairing with the music, which has more of an intellectual feel than an emotional one. Repetition is embraced, in a Kraut-rock-indebted manner, so the instrumentation has a way of feeling like it's being kept at arm's length. So, when the vocals come roaring in, it's somewhat of a shock to the system.

These contradictions seem to be part of the ethos of Jerkagram. Two brothers, born almost simultaneously, growing up together to form a band that works so closely in tandem that every wild swerve and crackpot idea gets fully embraced and explored. I don't know if there's anything to the notion of siblings having any kind of a psychic connection with each other (likely, it's the sort of "psychic" feeling you get when you've known someone forever), but you never know. In any case, the Gaines brothers follow each other better than I do my brother. Mine and his band would be absolutely awful.

Jerkagram, w/ the Lunch, Lust For Glory, Ultra Violet Mist, Monday, Nov. 23, 6 p.m., cover TBA, All Ages, Le Voyeur, 404 E. 4th Ave., Olympia, 360.943.5710

Jerkagram, w/ Bes, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 10 p.m., no cover, The Swiss, 1904 S. Jefferson Ave., Tacoma, 253.572.2821

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