It’s 10pm and JAVELIN, the Dream-Pop/Hip-Hop duo from New York by way of Rhode Island are playing a Friday night slot on the second night of East London’s multi-venue-fest Stag and Dagger. Javelin are also without their “Boombaatas”: two stacks of brightly coloured boomboxes that work as an auxiliary PA and a florescent talking point.
Instead George Langford, Javelin’s only instrumentalist, whacks an electronic drum kick with the kind of enthusiasm last seen in New Order’s ‘True Faith’ video, leaving Tom Van Buskirk to spit garbled rhymes (that fall somewhere between Biz Markie and The Muppets), while throwing Paul’s Boutique-era Beastie Boys shapes and twiddling about with and stamping on a number of effects pedals.
What the show is missing is a visual accompaniment to the buzzed-out tunes the boys are supplying. Fellow neo-psychedelic acts such as Yeasayer, Black Dice and Lightning Bolt (all of whom originate also from Rhode Island) surround themselves with the hippy-ish, naïve and slightly creepy day-glo art, popularised by artists like Mat Brinkman and Dear Rain Drop. Meanwhile, Javelin’s sleeves, sites and social networking pages display a love of florescence – their Thrill Jockey 12”, ‘No Mas’, was packaged in second-hand sleeves over which the band’s name had been silk-screened.
Yet tonight the pair look like they have just stepped out of a college dorm. Langford’s t-shirt, plugging the Providence RI punk marching band What Cheer? is the only aesthetic hint of their spicier origins. Javelin’s music, however, makes up for their drab stage appearance. These two cousin (on the mothers’ side) conjure up a joyous mess, partially sampled, played, rapped. Calling it Hip Hop is too narrow. It owes as much to Boards of Canada as it does to De La Soul or The Tom Tom Club.
Stand-out tracks like Radio come on like Buggles kicking it with Chic in Ibiza, while Vibrationz has all the blissed-out positivism of The Rotary Connection, combined with the playful excitement of Saturday morning cartoons. The set is short, typical for a festival bill. The boys are polite, thanking the venue and plugging later dates. They’ve left my ears satisfied but I am holding out for the Boombaatas next time around.