JASON WILLETT - The Sounds Of Megaphone Unlimited
Jason Willett is best known as having been the bass player for East Coast cult band Half Japanese that also spawned the legendary genius of Jad Fair. Willett has also been active in myriads of other bands like The Can Openers, The Jaunties, The Pleasant Livers, X-Ray Eyes, The Dramatics, The Dentures and Leprechaun Catering. None of this sounds familiar to you? Don’t worry, it didn’t to me either.
Jason Willett feels best at home when he can indulge free form no wave music with angular guitars that betray a certain punk edge and an avant-garde feeling that owes much to the godfathers of Rock In Opposition: Fred Frith and Tim Hodgkinson of Henry Cow fame.
Willett is also the owner of Megaphone Records which releases all kinds of weird music, much of it his own, and this compilation, issued by MT6, now collects unreleased material of Megaphone Unlimited bands where the label owner has been a member. Most of the contributions date from the mid-Nineties, although there are also a few more recent entries.
The listening experience is jarring but surprisingly cohesive, as the common thread is noisy guitar no wave that always seems to eschew the traditional formats of songwriting. At times there is a certain surf edge, with Sixties organs aplenty, then there are also excursions into the free jazz territory, and some famous help can be found by Jad Fair (of course), and the Japanese Ruins with whom Willett collaborated on some kind of opera, and another Japanese icon, Eye Yamatsuka, of Boredoms and Naked City fame, whose vocals were recorded through a telephone line… much cheaper than an airplane ticket, I guess.
The Sounds Of Megaphone Unlimited is anything but easy listening, even comes sometimes close to getting on my nerves, but eventually it is a charming experience, displaying the different facets of experimental guitar driven music. Probably a collector’s item only, but an artist like Jason Willett, who has been active for nearly twenty years and who has been involved in the recordings of many albums, deserves a compilation of his own.