The snack master
Friends and freedom: As if Sol Collective was his living room and the paying attendees were all of his friends, Jacob Golden supplied snacks. Lots of snacks. Good snacks. Sandwich cookies and cheesy puffs and filled pretzels and craft beer and wine.
The thing is, Golden also designed the venue like a house show, with folks seated all around his stageless setup. And, many in the packed crowd were Golden’s friends—and dedicated fans for the past decade or longer.
Among the friends: former Jackpot member Lee Bob Watson, who opened the show with his rock band Lee Bob & the Truth. Performing as an all-string trio, the group won the crowd over with giggles, charisma, sassy hip shakes, epic guitar solos and the occasional, “I love Sacramento!” Watson said the band’s second full-length is complete and should be out soon—March, maybe—which means we’ll get another visit soon as well.
But the night ultimately belonged to Golden and his release of The Invisible Record, his third album but the first he released on his own terms.
Golden brought up more friends for his set, sometimes having as many as five people for a backing band, including Young Aundee, Dusty Brown and Kris Anaya (Doombird, Contra). Drums, synth, keys, cello and xylophone—it was all very big, very ambitious. Yet, the musicians only had a few days to learn the songs and it sometimes showed. The arrangements worked very well on songs like “All in a Day’s Work,” where the atmospheric sounds slowly built and a distorted guitar ramped up the tension. But on other songs, said electric guitar completely drowned out Golden’s delicate whispers.
Golden performed songs off The Invisible Record but also went far back into his catalog, even to “Jesus, Angelina” from his Orisha days, much to the pleasure of a few adoring fans. My favorites were “Bluebird,” which featured just Golden, his guitar and his emotional autobiography; and “Freedom Bells,” which he pulled off as a singalong in the grandest sense. At the end, he closed his eyes, stopped singing and let go of his guitar so he could conduct us. With both hands waving every which way, he smiled like a guy who finally got what he wanted after years of almosts.
Superpowers: Ambitious is a baby grand piano movement tucked in the closing moments of an experimental electronic record. It’s the sort of head fake that tricks the mind of a Soundcloud listener into thinking autoplay transitioned to a RIYL (Recommended If You Like) artist. Fitting that the song in question is titled “Superhuman.” As such, much of Separate Spines’ debut EP Voli—which drops March 5—is hyperambitious and, even in its most cerebral explorations, very much alive.
The head rush of Voli arrives via the group’s dueling drummers—one being the indomitable Omar Gonzalez-Barajas—which is, again, ambitious. Voli overtures with machine-gun percussion over glitched ambient, buzzing feedback and the tinkering of keys on “Zero.” It’s essentially a warm-up intro for “Eminent One,” which is the album’s first big leap, with choir vocals recorded in a secret cathedral with the help of a dozen friends and local musicians. “The Hardest Part” follows as a recoil that introduces the core members of vocalist Buddy Hale, Gonzalez-Barajas and Christian Meinke on drums, Zach Hake on keys, Rachel Freund on synth bass, Charles Dale on synths and Sydney Jones on auxiliary percussion. Each assignment is circumstantial, as the group changes instruments on a song-by-song basis.
Philosophically, the EP and Separate Spines the entity want to defy convention. In its inhibition though, Separate Spines avoid the trappings of sophomoric impulse. This is important to note as the lion’s share of recording was done in two days with Spencer Hoffman (Silver Spoons) at the Record Dungeon in Elk Grove with overdubs laid later in churches, warehouses and living rooms. It’s rare for a neoteric group to expertly capture the spontaneity, let alone be so aware. “I just want to be superhuman,” goes the refrain on “Superhuman,” and Separate Spines flirts with such possibility on Voli.