The strange and beautiful world of Jaggery live at Oberon
By Victoria Wasylak
The Oberon Theater in Harvard Square has welcomed plenty of edgy acts over the years, but certainly nothing quite like Boston band Jaggery. Their unique brand of gothic chamber pop is sunshine and thunder — capable of producing whirlwind rock crescendos that snarl, bite and spit fire, just before slowing down to a calm breeze gentle enough to lull a baby to sleep. On June 12, the band recorded a live album at Oberon that plays with unmistakable originality, glittering musicianship and walks the line between genius and insanity that only the most adventurous dare to explore.
The album will jumpstart the band’s cross-country summer tour, kicking off at The Lizard Lounge in Cambridge on July 5.
“When you’re touring it’s nice to have something new to give your fans,” says lead singer Mali Sastri, whose vocal talents, ranging from sweet and hauntingly low melodies to shrieking highs that she controls with all the strength of an operatic star, lend to Jaggery’s distinctive sound.
The atmosphere of the stage was heavy, from Sastri’s keyboard covered in dead roses to the band’s quasi-Victorian garb. And the audience was encouraged to be a part of it all.
At times, the jam-packed theater just watched in quiet awe as Miss Sastri’s sudden vocal crescendos rattled bones and made arm hairs stand on end.
“We were serious when we said that we wanted your voices on this album” viola maverick Rachael Jayson shouted to fans. The crowd was happy to oblige, cheering wildly after tunes that whipped the room into a buzzing ball of energy.
One of the highlights of the evening was “Walls are Windows,” a fiery rant about work censorship with Sastri chanting over bluesy keyboards and badass bass riffs, They want you to think that that you are safe, but you can be sure that they are the predator and we are the prey.
A slower number, “Garden,” reflected Sastri’s love of nature with gentle harp notes that sounded like dewy spider webs being plucked at midnight, and their rare live gem “Theory of Everything” featured the unique sound of a sintir, a type of Moroccan bass.
Other features included songs from Sastri’s work with Steven Bogart “10 paintings 10 songs,” and the band’s new tune, “Crux,” a duet between Sastri and harp player Petaluma Vale.
“The piano part I came up with during Jaggery Camp,” Sastri said after the show, recalling how she wrote the song at one of the band’s meetings, which she affectionately refers to as camp.
“I can write a melody, I can write music with ease and pleasure, but I really get stuck with the lyrics,” she admitted.
“Crux,” however, was a personal triumph for the musician, which she was able to pen the lyrics to easily.
“It feels kind of like I’ve made a turning point, it didn’t feel like pulling teeth, which many songs in the last few years have felt like,” she said.
For fans, Jaggery live at Oberon feels like the perfect mélange of light and dark; beauty, brains and brawn. Stockpile some absinthe and prepare for a marathon listening session when the album comes out in mid-July. This is a catalogue of music that will open your mind to a brave new Avant-garde world.
Look for downloads on bandcamp.com, and for $15, fans can buy a copy of the CD with special collage packaging handmade by the band. Learn more at jaggery.org