Material: To say Swiss-born Jojo Mayer was born to play the drums isn’t just hyperbole––his mother proclaims he was kicking to the rhythm while still in utero. After hitting the skins at age two, he started touring at 18, backing masters like Nina Simone and Dizzy Gillespie. After later logging stints with Intergalactic Maiden Ballet and Screaming Headless Torsos, he formed Nerve in ’97 and they’ve been freaking audiences ever since. A drum ‘n bass by way of jazz trio, their instrumental tapestry spirits listeners upon a trans-dimensional journey they’re unlikely to forget.
Musicianship: What else can be stated regarding someone who Modern Drummer magazine named one of the instrument’s 50 greatest? Mayer’s inventive licks, combined with his speed and delectable feel, bend minds. Bassist John Davis lays down a bed of soul hugging fuzz that acts as the ideal backdrop to Mayer’s virtuoso skinsmanship. Layering this are Jacob Bergson’s keyboards and Aaron Nevezie’s prismatic gamma rays, suffusing their dub fusion motif with a welcome dash of electronica exotica.
Performance: Musical purists, Nerve allow their sound to speak for itself, jamming for 50 minutes before offering player introductions and a brief soliloquy regarding the nature of their creative process, then plainly rounding out the rest of their hour and a half set. A lone, albeit classy, logo adorns Mayer’s kit. This lack of extraneous elements could be perceived as a weakness, but in the case of Nerve it underscores the seriousness of their artistic intentions.
Summary: Nerve is about shattering musical boundaries, unapologetically traipsing through a multitude of interconnected genres––jungle, glitch, dub step, rock and jazz––to formulate something altogether fresh. The end product is pure exhilaration. The sole downside is that they seemingly eschew any focus upon commercial viability. This isn’t to say they haven’t already achieved notoriety, having appeared on the cover of Drum! as well as Mayer’s overall recognition as a notable influencer. What’s absent is the wider acknowledgment and financial desserts Mayer and his cohorts unquestionably deserve.
Sonia Cambridge, MA