LA based fusion-jazz outfit Joy Guerilla, made up of Magda Daniec and Adam Grab return with the follow up to 2018’s Skyline. An album that was inspired by the sights and sounds of the West coast of America. Through funky upbeat melodies and riffs the band painted the sunny and vibrant landscapes that populate the bands hometown. Recorded around the same time as Skyline, The Park Is Closed is the darker side of that setting; both in time and feeling. A similar palette of sounds, but this time that cool air of the night sky is washed over them.
From the get go the band literally places you into this setting with opener “Nightfall” that sparkles with dancing melodies as an almost ominous wave of synthesised sounds washes over the soundscape. Then into “Earthsuit” you’re thrown into a mix of funky sub bass lines, driving beats and a sexy saxophone solo courtesy of Mike Maher of jazz heavyweights Snarky Puppy. Written as an ode to the Earth, this song place you in all the joyous moments of the night. As each layer of groovy melodies is added towards the latter half of the track you feel as if you’re walking down a nighttime LA street, people heading to bars, there’s life in the city. And this ability to position you directly into the spaces that the band was drawing influence from is one of the greatest aspects of this album.
The darkness that the band leans into on this album comes out especially on tracks like “The Great Stress” which is infused with heavy arpeggiating synthesisers and chaotic sound samples flitting in and out of the soundscape. Although the saxophone melody may seem upbeat and joyous, underneath the sound of a deep, ominous movement of synth pads and layers feel as though they’re trying to break out into the forefront; the stress slowly building. Then on closer and title track “The Park Is Closed” the band fuses field recordings of bug samples and spacey analogue mellotron sounds to create a sound that is washed in the serenity of night. The intoxicating melodies remind of those times staring out of the window, watching the hidden world of the nighttime come alive. Eventually incorporating some quick flourishes of heavy jazz-fusion beats, until the track slowly fades out with some sinister sounding synths. A small reprise comes back in just when you think it’s all over of 8-bit instruments, as if these are the end credits of the video game you’ve just completed.
An aspect you quickly realise about this album is just how many movements and shifts the band packs into each song. For instrumental bands it can be often too easy to lean into just jamming out a sound and feeling where the song could go through various solos. That isn’t the case on this album however. Every moment and musical shift feels like it has purpose and meaning. On “Million Dollar Neighbourhood” the track begins with a bouncy funk beat, moving to a more loose saxophone interlude, then descending into a moments of space jazz until finally ending with an off-beat, indie centric synth groove. Through all these transitions every change is seamless and the way you’re moved from one notion to the next is like travelling across the great highways of America ; state after state passing you by.
What Joy Guerilla have achieved on this album is showcasing their incredible ability to turn simple melodies and phrases into sonic landscapes that are bursting with life. It’s worth playing both albums back to back to get a true sense and feeling of the story that the band is telling here.