by Sasha Parodi
Photography by Victoria Wasylak
This past Friday, April 29, the band Jaggery debuted their album Crux at ONCE, filling the evening with vibrant sound, thoughtful lyrics and playful exchanges with the audience.
Jaggery, soon to turn 11 years old, has spent the past decade building a presence on the East Coast music scene with their kaleidoscope-esque music. Taking influences from elements of classical literature, human creativity, the big life questions and human emotion, they create a responsive, delicate conglomeration of sounds that convey the ranges of feeling to which a human heart can go and the speed with which it can travel.
Their new album Crux emanates this character. In fact, most of the record consists of older songs from the band, well known by the audience.
“We’re a really slow band when it comes to new material,” said director and lead vocalist Mali Sastri jokingly as she introduced the album.
Crux is, however, is novel in that it is the first album recorded in an “actual studio,” an exciting feat for the group.
From its opening song, the band demonstrated that everything was done with intention—from sound to appearance to execution. The band very clearly exists as a cohesive whole, a musical organism of moving parts that build off of one another. However, in the band’s wholeness one can see the uniqueness of each individual. Every member appeared to be dressed to showcase his or her own character. Outfits ranged from corseted gowns to prom-styled shimmering dresses, to suits and softer knitted wear. Even the piano was dressed up with a softly shimmering tapestry draped across its body.
It is precisely this eclectic combination that allows the band to break commonly accepted rules of musical sound. As the vibrato of the bass sets anger into your soul, the violin’s sweetness intertwines with the staccato verses, completed by a sprinkle of whispers and Jaggery whisks you away to an exploratory world of emotions.
The band started the night off with a sweet ballad complete with an airy sound that filled the room with singsong echoes. However, this softness soon developed into a darker range of emotions, in which Mali stretched the capabilities of her voice to merge human song with human pain.
Jaggery’s ‘Russian Block’ followed this introduction. The ‘block’ was a series of songs based on products of Russian literature, such as Crime and Punishment, and the diary of a Russian ballet dancer during his development of schizophrenia. Sastri used statements from his diary to create a
searching, tantalizing song exploring the human mind.
The band generally leaves this haunting song to the end. But on this celebratory night they decided to provide some “sun after the clouds” to the audience.
And light emanated not only from the songs that followed, but also from the members themselves. Despite the dark emotions that loomed in the depths of their material, Jaggery members lit up the night with their sparkling personalities. The night was chock-full of shared moments or memories of shared experience between the band and the audience, revealing a mutually supportive, touchingly close relationship.
As they rounded out their night, Jaggery completed their lineup with songs that they usually used to begin their shows, such as “War Cry.”
“We usually do this to weed out people,” explained Sastri, “but today we wanted to start out easy and build up to this.”
The band ended with a screech and a bang and a jarring conglomeration of sounds that seemed to unite in a very relatable expression of human emotion.