JPEGMAFIA’s music is hard to place. His latest album, Veteran, is tracked rhythmically and thematically by a dead-set propensity for scattershot and surprise. The rain and lily pads musicality of key plinks wend through wind-downed tower radio static; iamb filler humor abuts mordant indictments of power and shed obscurity and clarity over one another in equal measure; the trappings of misogyny garb a ruthless anti-machoism, as foundational tempos wander distractedly out of earshot and erupt out of stillness glitch quickly, the way lightning sticks to the eyes when it’s already gone off over the next peak. There’s a sense of time lapsed waxing and waning in his temperament, as a experience and its observations frenetically trade places, wise-cracking to enraged to demure – and sometimes the three all at once – that’s suggestive of rapid vacillations of pressure, as though a glass of ice stood in his studio might skip over water and change phases directly into vapor, only to fall a moment later in full hail.
His celebrity hitlist is lengthy: he name-checks millionaire political tropists Bill Maher, Tomi Lahren and Kellyanne Conway; he makes a case for loathing the trio equally. As for pop cues, Macaulay Culkin comes up twice, and Peggy seems to think he’s alright, though Steves Austin and Morrissey get sharp barbs and venom. Half of one track is undergird by Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s throat croaking and yodeling, and it recalls nothing so much as nail jags grinding down plaques of calcium. Another finds him inscrutably censoring only some of his own cusses. Its sum is disorienting, ill-suited for the bodied patterns of cycling, fucking or cutting onions.
His set at Prince Charles on 06 November went a long way towards illuminating the appropriate milieu for uncovering the grooves in his latest music. Through a little under an hour, he proved that the proper venue was just where he was, on and off the stage, in front of and above and amid an enthusiasm that admirably matched his own. Chants filled the odds and ends gaps and anchored his ad-libs; the helter-skelter percussion sent a hundred people jumping in a dozen different directions, slicking and soaping and mopping bodies and room faces with sweat and liquor and mirth. He put on a salt stiff headband to trigger humor (“I can be hot or show that I’m balding, but not both at once”), dug and flooded a channel of anger over The Smiths and balmed the catharsis of the set’s end with a hot compress of appreciation, as he laid a thankful hand over the shoulder of the several show-goers nearest him. And for an evening, at least, the tangle of frenetics resolved through the work of their knotter into a warm kind of calm.