When you think of New Jersey, what image comes to mind?
For me, I will always immediately go to an image shown during the Colorado Avalanche vs New Jersey Devils in the NHL playoffs many years ago. They did a montage of each team’s locale. For Colorado they showed the snow-capped Rockies, for Jersey, they showed a freeway and industrial park.
While this may seem a bit biased, there is something telling about the images of New Jersey. New Jersey is gritty and raw. It really earns its keep. This isn’t a drawback by any means, it is more of a testament to their unwavering identity.
It only seems fitting that J. Hacha de Zola formulated the album Escape from Fat Kat City amongst the modern complexity that is New Jersey. As he puts it “No one ever bothered me, I guess they knew you should never mess with a guy walking through the street with a pink toy piano tucked under his arm.”
And using the term “original” is the most lackluster, phoned-in explanation one could make of this record. The myriad of sound that emanates over the course of the fifteen tracks is built on a foundation of a haunted Jim Morrison meets Nick Cave in a much darker incarnation of pioneering jazz, funk, blues and songwriting brilliance. Where musical theory and mainstream meet, Fat Kat City barrels through pretense and expectation with a big black musical steamroller permeating the kind of sound that makes grandparents lock their doors and parents think twice about their “baby”. And on the whole, and in pieces, it is utterly brilliant.
The musical macabre of Escape from Fat Kat City unapologetically struts whimsical undertones to an otherwise smoky swagger that is equal parts dark, mysterious, and captivating; if not occasionally unnerving. And through the ambiance of fused progressive-jazz, I am unabashedly in love with this record. At the apex of horns and heavy guitar there lies an ominous presence of J. Hacha de Zola. At times, specifically “Let it Go,” an air of blues prevails, at others such as “Black Sparrow,” there is a side-show-esc quality that is as fun as it is drawing. I would be remiss, however, if I did not confess that I am captivated by “Moonpies and Pennywhistles.” It harnesses chaos amongst reflective psychedelic drifting in a beautifully orchestrated assembly.
Many people see New Jersey as the slick-haired, talentless, ass-clown twenty-somethings who, for no reason other than punishing the world at-large, had a show on MTV. For me, it is the turnpike and factories. It is the rough exterior paired with hard-edged ethic. It is J. Hacha de Zola. It is Escape from Fat Kat City. New Jersey should be proud.
Greg is a co-founder and regular contributor to Nanobot Rock. He believes that if you’re going to go strange, go full strange.