On June 7, 1998, three young white men offered a ride to James Byrd, Jr., a middle-aged African American. Byrd accepted, but instead of driving him home, the men — two of whom were ultimately judged to be white supremacists — drove him out of the city limits, assaulting and urinating on him. The group chained Byrd’s legs to the pickup truck, dragging him along an asphalt surface for three miles, until he struck a concrete drain and was killed. Internationally this small town in East Texas is known for little else, and the event is surely the inspiration behind Gothenburg-based Dag Rosenqvist’s alias Jasper TX. A brief mnemonic for the most terrifying fringe movement of a world superpower.
clues: the delicious streaks of inexactness; the touching, un-repeating samples; the brevity of the compositions themselves. These are framed portraits presented as sketches, which only leaves the “albinos” term open for much speculation. We understand that the album was composed in Reykjavik, not exactly known for its sunburns, so Collings could have drawn up these pages for anyone.
Or for all we know he is a devoted Trekkie, and keenly interested in Deep Space Nine.
Either way, the guises are cast aside for their forthcoming collaboration on Hibernate, the six-part EP Wonderland, originally intended for release during their April 2012 tour. Every spill down a rabbit hole and into Wonderland starts at a Precipice, and we featured that savage, unyielding track in July. Frequent commenter Wendy Cook stole our thunder with the succinct, potent conclusion “Like NIN in a hailstorm.” Indeed the populated canvas, the distorted pulse recall one of Colling’s observations about his Convex Mancave project: “I often feel that there’s nothing more expressive than raw, raging, directionless noise.”
But his collaboration with Rosenqvist tends more toward his melodic side. “Wonderland Part Two” pretty clearly shares DNA with Sketches For Albinos: the muted tones, gentle woodwind effect and wobbly piano trade in volume for tones. “Part Three” is built mostly from center-of-the-action field recordings, the murmur of a crowd, insulated and unidentifiable music, and an ambulance several blocks off. Finally a breathy, straightforward synthesizer arrangement closes it. Album opener “Part One” introduces both the tuneful and atonal designs: a rustic mandolin lick and embracing drone are gradually pushed aside by whipping synth oscillations and grinding electronics. And it is a welcome sound. Because we’d be derelict in duty without saying our favorite moments here are the louder ones.
“Precipice” is the most fierce stop along the tracklist, to be sure. A deranged metronome clicks away in clean tones while a single, explosive guitar chord strikes once and again. The crescendo is simply rapturous, even if it’s so cluttered that you’re only guessing at the hardware. (Violin? Mellotron? Sheet metal?) “Music For Dying Amps” is self-referential, and needs little added description. All guitarists have been there, Collings and Rosenqvist have only raised the phenomenon to high art. With keyboard, manipulations and field recordings.
Honest, personal. These are the first terms that come to mind when two pseudonymous musicians set aside their aliases and offer a work of art under their given names. But the music of Collings and Rosenqvist was honest and personal already. It is interesting to note that Wonderland marks the retirement of “Jasper, TX” as a stage name. Rosenqvist will continue to record, but under other bylines. For a solo artist, dropping an AKA is somewhat akin to a friend dropping a nickname. It is not purely symbolic, it is absolutely symbolic. It is the act of moving forward, sauntering across new ridges and tumbling into new realms.