The Palette Jacks ‘Volume of Joy’

The Palette Jacks cassette cover

01 Ultima Finis Vitae (15:50)
02 Metal Tides (6:46)
03 Time Is Current, See? (8:35)
04 Death Is Forgetting (8:25)
05 For A Breath I Tarry (23:005)

Total time 60:00
Cassette released by Joy Street Studios, San Francisco, 1990

Ramona Tamiyasu: voice, percussion, radios, tapes, t.v.
Tony Calvo: saxophone, flute, organ, percussion, tapes, radios, electronics, t.v.
Mike Shannon: flute, guitar, voice, percussion, tapes, organ, electric 12-string guitar, erhu, dilruba, t.v.

The Palette Jacks cassetteThe Palette Jacks were a trio of San Francisco musicians gathering in the basement of Mike Shannon‘s house, a place equipped with recording facilities he dubbed Joy Street Studios. Between 1987 and 1989, Tony Calvo and Shannon had played in various bands together, like Earnerve (with several cassette releases), Joyo or Robert Horton’s Plateau Ensemble. Calvo died a few years ago. Here’s how Shannon describes the Palette Jacks project:

Tony, Ramona and I decided to make 4-track tapes which we would pass back and forth between our houses. Our early recordings were made that way, Tony and Ramona might record a track or two in their home and I would then add tracks at my home or I would start with tracks and give them the tape to add to. I would then mix them in my studio… We performed unique live concerts that involved visual projections and scents that were color-chakra related to produce certain effects (the results of Ramona’s studies in acupuncture, aroma therapy, and herbal medicine). The music was essentially improvised within a general intuitive flow of structures relating to the sequence of colors, images, and scents.
[Mike Shannon email, Sep.1st, ’09]

The tracks on this cassette adopt a similar strategy of free improvisation on traditional instruments by each members, with the use of re-recording at various stages. On the best tracks (#4 and 5), the casual voice of Ramona Tamiyasu adds a surrealist dimension to the trio’s undecipherable music, build on slow-paced, non-rhythmic drumming, found instruments and TV/radio excerpts. The last track, ‘For A Breath I Tarry’ (from a Roger Zelazny book) is noticeable for it’s beautiful acoustic sounds, disregard for structure, uneventful, Cageian moments and disorienting false starts. While adroitly avoiding the traps and clichés of improvised music, the trio venture into a kind of West Coast free music, typical from some LAFMS non-music, for instance. Thanks to Mike Shannon for his help with this post.


See also:
Mike Shannon ‘Into a deeper unknown’ >
Mike Shannon ‘Tourniquet of Roses’ >
Robert Horton ‘This bug’s for you’ (w/T. Calvo) >

2 Responses to “The Palette Jacks ‘Volume of Joy’”

  1. 1 gd September 16, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    thanks for this. mike is quite an underrated musician. i have a couple of his other albums, including the great Laguz LP that was released on Anomalous records….he also worked with jeph jerman in the animist orchestra and other situations.

  2. 2 continuo September 16, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    A very talented musician, I agree. I wish he could resurface like his friend Robert Horton has been in recent years. Thanks for your comment, Greg.

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