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Boston, Massachusetts, United States | INDIE

Boston, Massachusetts, United States | INDIE
Band Pop Avant-garde


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Genre: Cool, Collective Creepiness / Verdict: Ambitious and Eerie"

Upon a Penumbra isn’t your typical 10-track album, and Jaggery is not a typical band. An "art-rock collective," Jaggery’s intricate, atonal scores fill the album with a philosophical investigation into the genre of experimental jazz.

Jaggery’s sound evolves through thrusting dissonant strings and voices, but their strengths undoubtedly lie in moments of calm: the haunting Gregorian chants of "Mama," the agility of harpist Petaluma Vale’s fairylike fingers on "Funny Face," the purposefully under-sung "What You Lack." The band utilizes vocalist Singer Mali’s voice as a contribution, not as its focal point as in the DiFranco-esque "Paucity City" and "Fair," a lyric-centered tango. Jaggery isn’t for everyone, but they dutifully explore the boundaries through their constructed discordant harmonies. - The Weekly Dig

"The Boston Herald"

Much has already been written about [Mali] Sastri’s uncanny vocal range, but her theatricality proved equally impressive. Her disposition switched from new-age songbird to woman scorned to woodland fairy to blood-thirsty werewolf to sultry lounge singer according to the mood of the music.
- The Boston Herald

"Pattern Sounds"

As children, we insisted on hearing the same bedtime stories every night, and we watched the same Disney movies over and over until we had the words memorized. I'm not sure how many of us ever outgrow the need for reassuring redundancy. As if most of our adult lives weren't tedious enough — even during rock shows, which attempt to break the monotony — there's always that one douchebag who wants to hear "Free Bird." That joke is expected and therefore makes douchebags happy.

"Patterns that were established during youth often replay with other people in your life, sometimes to the point of detrimental effects. I know I do that," clarifies Jaggery vocalist Mali Sastri when I admit I'm having trouble deciphering "Incestuous Tendencies," the opening track from Upon a Penumbra (which will be unveiled this Wednesday at Church).
Sastri and Rachel Jayson, the latter an adept of multiple classical stringed instruments, are sipping wine in the rehearsal space of the illustrious Cloud Club artist collective in the South End, where Sastri resides. Following our interview, I get all dorky and keyed up when they confirm that Neil Gaiman and Nine Inch Nails have partied here.

"I've done a lot of therapy," Sastri continues, "and that song is kind of me looking at the idea of trying to heal one of the primary relationships. I wonder why I'm attracted to certain people, in whatever sense. Is it because I'm trying to work something out that was injured in the past? Or is it because that's what's familiar and comfortable, so I replay it?"
It's strange she should feel that way about her personal life, given that her band — an otherworldly amalgamation of musical disciplines — share no such complex. A former NYC outfit that's existed since the early naughts, Jaggery prevail as the weirdest band on local bills, even alongside allied acts like the bizarre Walter Sickert and the Army of Broken Toys. Maybe it's no coincidence that Jayson's also a full-time Broken Toy.

Sastri and Jayson are in fact the only members who live in Massachusetts. Hence, Jaggery operate as an amorphous collective as opposed to a boring ol' band. Some of the instrumentation came along serendipitously. Upon encountering Jayson at one of Cloud Club's ORG performance parties, Sastri recruited her for a string-quartet incarnation of Jaggery before ultimately making her a regular. It was also decided that the organization required a harpist — more or less because the opportunity presented itself.

Although zillions of bands either experiment too much or just tell people they experiment too much, Jaggery exist as sonic liquid that fills numerous pigeonholes. Forged with restrained jazz drums, elevated strings, piano and harp rippling like rain on a windshield, and a smidgen of world-music accompaniment, Upon a Penumbra is more a series of unsettling mediæval lullabies than anything you could call art rock. As she bounds and soars from fragile murmurs to smirking indignation to full-on operatic wailing, Sastri keeps everything safely distant from easy-listening territory. I can't envision Enya spitting the serrated despair Sastri conjures on "Paucity City."

"The voice is a very charged thing, in that it's like a bridge between the internal and the external," she says regarding her studies in voice-movement therapy. "It's often a locus of all sorts of trauma and issues people have about being heard. A lot of people have fond memories of singing as a kid, but then they stopped. Someone said they sang poorly, or there was some issue. The idea is to free up people's voices through lots of physical work, trying to dilate the throat, and to get the voice in the body, as opposed to caught in the throat."

From there, the voice takes on new life.

"It's not so much the meanings of the words being used," Jayson comments on Sastri's vocal stylings. "It's more the way the words sound together. It sets the stage, sets up a mood, a zone, an experience for the audience, instead of giving them a literal 'Eat these words, decide for yourself what you think!' It's about the experience of hearing them." - Boston Phoenix

"Triage Music"

At times Jaggery makes you wonder, “what if Dave Brubeck and Diamanda Galas jammed?” The band’s singer/pianist, Mali Sastri, conjures up emotion and atmosphere which can only be weighed on a global scale. Her powerful, entrancing voice lends the overall sound an exotic, mystical, far eastern aura. It’s always magnificent, captivating, and sustained by a gorgeous tapestry woven by her brilliantly talented band. Jaggery features dream-like harp, soulful stand-up bass and rich, organic percussion. This debut album [Polyhymnia] has the warmth of Blue Bell Knoll-era Cocteau Twins with a modern avant-jazz sensibility, wrapped in an ethereal, spiritual, blue velvet haze, full of mystery and intrigue. Let the dark, velvety warmth of Jaggery be your soundtrack for a mysterious, unreal dreamstate.

- Bob Weir

"Aaron Jentzen"

A syrupy upright bass line oozes into the chinks of a slow, polyrhythmic groove. A piano picks out a jazz-flavored motif alongside an oddly archaic sound: the pure tones of a Celtic harp. Restless, shape-shifting female vocals swim to the surface, then back to the depths again.

While the Brooklyn-based Jaggery's "darkwave jazz art-rock" is a smooth, subtle sound, it's not exactly what you'd call peaceful. But it is, in fact, therapeutic.

"I had a really rough early 20s," says Jaggery's Mali Sastri, "and it was at that time that I discovered 'voice-moment therapy.'" In the late 1990s, an injury had forced her to leave a dance program, and a friend steered her toward one of very few voice-movement therapy practitioners in the United States.

"It's an expressive arts therapy," says Sastri. "It's not highly technical; it's a very emotional and psychological use of the voice. Using the voice for healing, and a holistic view of vocal expression." She eventually moved to the U.K., spending two years in a more extensive program.

That experience and training comes out in a couple of distinct ways on Jaggery's debut full-length, the self-released Polyhymnia. First, there's Sastri's highly stylized sound, which veers from full-throated accusations to high mystical whispers. And then there's her lyrics.

"Some of them came directly out of some of the therapeutic work that I've done," Sastri says. "It's always easier to write songs from a depressed place, a dark and down place, for me," she admits, "and a lot of the songs have come directly from experiences of grief or pain or sorrow."

But that doesn't mean she can't throw in a song about a dog with a whimsical name ("Elfin Arrietty") or a song with surprisingly Yeatsian imagery, such as "Spiral Staircase." That song, Sastri says, concerns "when you feel like 'Oh, I'm back in the same place I was. Time has passed, and I've thought that I've grown and changed and worked on changing old habits and here I am again.' It's a different way of looking at that, as though you're on a spiral staircase. There is growth: You're coming back to the same place, but from a different perspective, a different height."

- Pittsburgh City Paper

"Ron Wyn"

The heavy improvisational slant of Brooklyn-based Jaggery’s music suggests a pronounced jazz bent, but if you wait long enough during any song on their debut full-length CD Polyhymnia you will also hear touches of classical influence, bits of avant-garde rock, traces of electronica and the fleeting, angelic sounds of Jesse Sparhawk’s rippling Celtic harp. 

But at the center of all these musical tapestries is the moving, forceful vocals of Mali Sastri, who says it’s the other group members who are into jazz rather than her, though she’s the one who has to navigate the harmonic and rhythmic territories where the songs often head. 

“No, I really don’t consider myself a jazz vocalist, nor am I as big into it as the other guys in the band,” Sastri said. “But the improvisational element is a big factor in the music, and I do like the fact that we set up these progressions and then we move in all sorts of directions and changes occur constantly.” 

Jaggery, who will appear Saturday night at Café Coco (210 Louise Ave., call 321-2626 for starting time), gets more ink and praise in New York’s alternative rock and new music circles than among the city’s jazz press. 

Some of that is due to Sastri’s strong rock ties, which reveal themselves on many tracks, even though where bassist Tony Leva and drummer Daniel Schubmehl are altering and tweaking the tempos as the songs unfold. 

Sastri can range into extreme registers, sound tender and sentimental or become animated and increase the vocal volume to equal the rhythmic intensity. 

They were deemed one of the Northeast’s top 15 acts last year by the Discmakers Independent Music World Series, though the group that will appear Saturday night in Nashville (their first visit to Music City) will resemble the less conceptually ambitious three-piece unit of their early days than the more freewheeling current band. 

“We won’t be taking the harp on the road for this set of dates,” Sastri said. “So to a certain exit we’re almost going back to what we did in the beginning. But the difference now, aside from our maturity, is that we’ve become more comfortable as a band and are able to stretch out thematically even when we don’t have everyone available that we’ve had doing the studio recordings.”

- City Paper Nashville

"Time Out New York"

Jaggery's arty chamber pop pivots on pianist-singer Mali Sastri's enveloping moan and florid keywork.  The other musicians, including Jesse Sparhawk on harp, bolster her with a variety of curious textures.

- Time Out New York

"David Wannop (Philadelphia)"

. . . the only harp driven band that matters . . .

- David Wannop

"Boston Survival Guide"

The wonderful thing about Jaggery is that while they have their influences, they’re so accomplished at their art that they respectfully pay tribute to, inhabit, dance around and through, poke fun at, and experiment with those influences, creating something uniquely their own. Clearly they’ve listened to some 80’s goth in their time (god bless ‘em), but bassist Tony Leva and drummer Daniel Schubmehl have a jazz sensibility that’s evident in the way they interact with each other and in their style of playing. Violist Rachel Jayson brought an unhinged avant garde classical vibe, and harpist Petaluma Vale, as her name would suggest, something mythical, magical and otherworldly

Meanwhile, Mali Sastri’s vocals veer wildly from soft, sweet whispers to low, dark taunts – quite often in the same song. Her tremendous range is not just in tone, but in the emotions she conveys. Dramatic and beautiful and yet, while this all sounds quite heady and serious, there’s a thin wisp of self-effacing humor floating around which makes the entire presentation just perfect. Take for example the dark, pretty, and hilarious “O Scorpio,” with is both delicious gothic comfort food and campy fun.

Among the songs they performed were the gorgeous “Petaluma” from their album Polyhymnia: The Muse of Song”, “Funny Faces” (from their new single), and a brand new song they had just written the previous evening. Mali introduced that last one, saying she usually didn’t want to play songs they hadn’t rehearsed many times, but that the others were “more ambitious.” It’s incredible to think they threw this together the night before, as it’s beautifully constructed in a classical sense, with separate movements and varying moods. From what I can tell from snippets of lyrics I caught (”Can’t you see the sign, it says off limits… leave me alone, leave me alone…,” “I’m checking out of the human race…”, “please end it, end it, end it”), it’s a little ditty of self-imposed exile, angst and possibly contemplations of suicide, moods which are mirrored in the complex, unsettled and shifting musical elements. It’s majestically grand and sweeping, and incredibly lovely.

They ended their set with a song that might be titled “Two Shot.” Included this evening was at least one song from their forthcoming new album, and another from their new 2-track single. They’ll be performing at an after-party at the House Of Blues Restaurant on June 19, after the final show of Evelyn Evelyn’s world tour. - Boston Survival Guide, Julie Stoller

"They Only Come Out At Night"

. . . It was both good and bad that I was right up front by the time Jaggery took the stage. Good because I was able to witness their arty, piano driven set from the gut. Bad because I didn't take many notes, so I'll have to work from memory. The band combines vocals, harp, violin, bass, drums and keys into something that can be classically delicate and dreamlike one minute to uneasy and challenging the next. It's as if Bjork or Tori Amos got together with Frida Kahlo to work on an art project, equal parts angelic and surreal. Their set featured great vocals, interesting time signatures, solid harmonies, and a full gymnast split to top it off. Next time I'll get an interview, promise. . . - SlowDayToday.com

"Cambridge Day"

. . . Expect . . . Jaggery to do its thing, too: Bringing the room to a breathless pause. There’s something about Jaggery’s music — a gothic, operatically intense mélange incorporating keyboards, harp and viola — that tends to freeze an audience where it stands like, well, like the kind of people who refuse to stand under umbrellas and instead raise their heads, close their eyes and let the rains wash over them. Jaggery audiences go silent and still like people appreciating raw, scary, beautiful wildlife. They want to feel what singer-songwriter Mali Sastri feels when she writes and performs. They want to not miss what she does with her voice. . . - Marc Levy


Harp. Acoustic bass. Classical voice. Jaggery, one of this week’s Foundwaves Weekly Picks, seamlessly join all three together with acoustic piano and drums into an unclassifiable sound.
With an amazing range and command of dynamics, singer Mali’s voice can shift from gorgeous and haunting at one moment to brash and sneering in the next, sometimes all within a single phrase. The pure acoustic tones of the harp, piano, and acoustic bass construct a mysterious world with height, depth, and width for Mali’s expressive melodies to explore. Adding colorful patterns and washes of rhythm, drummer Daniel Schubmehl plays with a rare precision and sensitivity that propels the music forward without ever trampling the subtlety and delicacy of the songs. - NA

"The Big Takeover"

Jaggery, “In Lethe EP”

“I reviewed this Brooklyn group’s three-song demo when they were The Throes [see below], and their essentials remain the same on this five-song, 28-minute EP as Jaggery. Mali Sastri’s unearthly voice (I compared her to Enya) still coos like she’s a choirgirl singing madrigals or hisses in a guttural growl like an irritated Ani DiFranco. Her brother Raky Sastri backs her up with some oddly timed, arrhythmic, freeform jazz drumming that has me wondering how he manages to hold it together against the strident piano and mysterious organ. Nor really jazz, not pop, not ethereal rock – this is not like anything else you’ve heard, aside from maybe what Suddenly, Tammy! might sound like with a hyper-jazz drummer and a gothic bent. In Lethe would provide a murky, absorbing soundtrack for Silence of the Lambs II, perhaps, and it’s really unusual music for sure.”

- Jack Rabid

"The Big Takeover"

"What a wonderful surprise! So many of these home-recorded demos are so unplanned and derivative that I almost dread putting them onto listen, but sister and brother duo Mali and Raky Sastri are definitely on the way to creatving something amazing here, if the three songs on this demo are any indication. Mali's voice goes from Enya-esque choirgirl heights to a low, throaty, angry growl seemingly without effort, while the combination of her borderline classical piano lines and Raky's oddly arrhythmic percussion equal some wonderfully disturbing songs. My only complaint is that the three songs on here leave me wanting to hear more, and pressing the "repeat" button again and again just doesn't cut it." - Holly Day

"Oedipus, Vice President of Alternative Programming"

"One of the most beautiful voices in modern music." - Infinity Broadcasting


In Lethe EP
Double Single ~ Funny Faces/No Sympathy
Upon A Penumbra
Arabian Dance ~ single



“Torture chamber pop.” “Darkwave jazz.” “Siren rock.” These are a few of the many attempts to describe the sound of Jaggery, an art-rock collective which weaves harp, viola, piano, contrabass, and drum kit into a universe of its own, setting the scene for “one of the most beautiful voices in modern music.” Powerful enough to harness the fiery churnings beneath a volcano as well as the ethereal light of a dying star, frontwoman Singer Mali’s voice regularly leaves listeners viscerally stunned and with goosebumps. She is flanked by a rotating lineup of musicians and instrumentation including Daniel Schubmehl’s West African approach to the drum kit, with jazz influences, Tony Leva’s funky upright bass, Rachel Jayson's avant-classical viola, and Petaluma Vale’s glistening Celtic harp and backing vocals.  This “exotic musical mobile” evokes a world of both dark, earth elements and celestial swirls ~ what Alice Coltrane’s “Journey in Satchidananda” might sound like with Bjork singing over the top of it. The band’s repertoire bridges the delicate and explosive ~ from haunting lullabies to furious, mixed-meter rants; tightly-woven compositions in odd time signatures to catharsis-inducing, barn-burning mini-epics (oft-times within the same song).  Jaggery (the word comes from the dark brown, Indian sugar) has toured up and down the east coast, and has released three recordings:  the 2004 in lethe ep, the 2006 full-length Polyhymnia, and 2010’s recently-released ‘Upon A Penumbra’. Jaggery’s first music video (‘O Scorpio) won their director “Most Promising New England Filmmaker 2009” at the Boston Underground Film Festival. Their second (‘Sea of Sideways) has been making recent waves across Youtube.