Jeff Tobias – Just What I Feel
11.18.22 by Matty McPherson
We love the face and all the nonverbal cues it displays for us, don’t we folks? I wager you can take on any face and in 3-5 seconds practically have read it for all its worth; maybe you’d even be ballsy enough to wager you know that face’s life story, its retirement plan, and how it would fair were New York to suddenly be swallowed whole. I couldn’t claim to do this with Jeff Tobias’ face though; there’s too much winking and nodding on the “rectanguloid grotesquery sleeve” and melting catatonic catharsis on the inner j-card to properly quantify into a direct thought. It “just what I [he] feel” so to speak.
Tobias’ most recent cassette finds him at the center of two things: his burgeoning record label, Strategy of Tension and his sopranino saxophone solo in June of 2021. The former debuted proper at the start of the year with Tobias’ first proper solo endeavor, Recurring Dream, which documented in significant detail Tobias’ wry wit and maverick pop tendencies. The kind of pop that he’s long suggested but often shied away from in lieu of headier instrumental and socio-conscious endeavors with Sunwatchers and Modern Nature, just to name a few. Recorded in June 2021 (and mastered by Mr. Garden Portal himself, a nice nod to Tobias’ Athens, GA legacy and connections), Just What I Feel both keeps one foot in Tobias’ recent collaborative tapes with Shiroishi and Cooper, while finally giving him the space to make the 20-track, C29 experience of absolute “hey let’s make a most raucous noise that captures the modern spirit.” If it melts your face, well then that’s already going to plan.
Now though, Tobias is no “sax offender” (a title that belongs to Christopher Brett Bailey). Yet his 20 noise-excursions on the sopranino do present a moment of raw ingenuity with the vessel. Each track title/phrase more or less describes a scenario or imagines a face or body, that with which Tobias uses the sopranino to render in industrial sludge or free-jazz detail; Tobias seriously handles the sopranino as Einstürzende Neubauten handles a power drill, finding a strangely comforting texture to hold down an idea for around 50-odd seconds on average. As such, the tape’s pacing and general fleet action always keeps the listener guessing “what’s behind the corner”–whether that be a garden stroll drone, a garbage truck trying to move in reverse, or a prick’s smirk documented in grotesque sonic detail. In sticking to raw instrumentals and exploring these textures in concise manners, Tobias grants listeners the ability to piece together just what these sounds could represent on their own merits (well maybe not Lecturer, I think you can figure that out). Yet, the black humor of this all leaves behind a strange curio of late-pandemic era New York City; a truly situated dispatch of sprawling, unfettered noise if there was one.
Limited edition of 100 cassettes, w/ rectanguloid grotesquery sleeve in a brain pink shell, and a sticker, are available at the Jeff Tobias/Strategy of Tension Bandcamp Page