The beloved Queen of the High Desert, Jesika von Rabbit, returns with her sophomore album, following up her 2015 LP, Journey Mitchell, both via Dionysus Records. Dessert Rock though, acts on stronger traits of von Rabbit. Playing on her current roots, which are residing in Joshua Tree, von Rabbit distances herself yet embodies her dusty surroundings. Delectable licks range from her small, playful jabs towards the genre and her home in the desert on experimental waves of synths, insightful slices cut on an electronic rock slab, and endless sharp breaks. Regardless of the light-heartedness that some tracks possess, there’s still a sense of appreciation that echoes from the 9-track offering, delivering a signature blend of innovative and art-tronic sounds.
“Amidst the heavy machismo and heavy rock guitar riffs of popular Desert Rock bands, I’m taking a slightly sweeter approach,” von Rabbit said. “We empower the listeners and pull them down the rabbit hole and back up again.”
Appeasing the senses, the savory “Calypso Facto” is our first introduction to the direction of the album. Living up to its name, the mystic hook drips in electronic allotments, all while von Rabbit bends notes, glistening across the upbeat melody, once more diving back under for a dreamy coating. “Innuendo” and “Palm Springs Livin” are the first whimsical tracks for the first half of the album, as they each dip into a playful assortment. “Palm Springs Livin” sees the most quirky aspect of von Rabbit as her notorious, character styled vocals execute any sense of seriousness of the track, gleefully name dropping those who inhabit the area, such as Suzanne Somers.
Von Rabbit explains a little further on the elements on the album, which is apparent by the 4th track. “‘Dessert Rock’ is built on the themes of freedom, adventure and little darkness that all stem from personal experience. We all have hard times once in a while but hopefully the good times outshine the rest. Our music is fun with a message. We want the people to have fun and think, too.”
“Going Down” is one of the darker, insightful tracks, ailing a stronger composition for von Rabbit, preparing for the listeners to go down the rabbit hole. Potent shards of electronic rock come alive on this track amidst the misleading, ominous atmosphere von Rabbit creates. Perfectly placed on the album, “Going Down” transitions and ultimately becomes the turning point on the album.
Following suit, “The Mushroom Haired Girl” sees von Rabbit on the other side. Deep bass pulses emit from the track upon first arrival. Building with various layers, an assortment of percussion pitches emerge with only peaks of guitar twangs. “I want to go and see her, the mushroom haired girl,” states von Rabbit, alluding the trip she desperately seeks, personifying the notion of psychedelic narcotics. Experimental in every way, and easily possessing one of the best breaks on the album, there’s an insane amount of depth to even the zaniest creations by von Rabbit.
“Make Me Feel Better” and “Children Of The Dust” continue the album’s fluidity. Whereas the first track is poignant, twisted and lost in a sci-fi nightmare, the latter breaks through with a similar orbital soundscape. Both carry an enjoyable sense with a sly hint of encouragement, “life it tough, but we carry on.”
Nearing towards the end, “My Medicine” comes in strong and stands as one of the best. Rustic and countryside musings open von Rabbit’s croon and act as the track’s core, while small bursts of aggressive guitar strums rattle the first 40 seconds. Von Rabbit reflectively lulls, “I live inside my head, it’s a messy place / I’d like to lead my life with a little grace,” foretelling the sounds yet to come. Cathartic bass lines break the verses before the track’s tempo completely switches, leading into a rock ballad of electronic bliss.
As a special treat, Dessert Rock includes von Rabbit’s cover of Culture Club’s “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?” led by Boy George. The cover is a stripped version from the original’s new-wave sound, allowing for the tender lyrics to be felt in a different light. With an assortment of elements that rise from the album there is still a controlled method to von Rabbit’s madness. Dessert Rock is worth every listen and is a true notch of imaginative and exploratory sounds polished with care.
Cover photo: Jessica Janos