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Month: April 2022

Premiere: “forget-me-not” by jph

I’m a firm believer in community, collaboration, and spreading the work around. My all-time favorite joke meme created by all-time great “goofy internet thing” is a picture of a man holding a sparkler in the air on a grassy space with the overlay caption “Following your heart is impossible, unless you ignore everyone around you.” I printed it out and now it graces the door to my office.

With that in mind, I do feel a little bad taking another JPH premiere from A Holy Hour off of someone else’s hands. (Y’all, everyone should get to premiere JPH work!) But not that bad. The video is very good and salves my minor concern.

The video for JPH’s “forget-me-not” is a beautiful, meditative, complex 9:15. The concept is simple but rich: on a background of gently waving trees, a video detailing the slowly turned pages of a vintage yearbook plays. The background of the trees represents solidity and stability. The action of turning the yearbook pages and the focus on the pictures of faded youth within the pages juxtaposes a sense of time passing quickly against the longevity of tall trees. I like looking at vintage yearbooks, so this concept was appealing to me in and of itself, but the work accentuates themes in the song as well.

The song points out tensions as well: the first 6:30 of the track consists of a field recording of birds and what sounds like a slowly looping harmonium drone. The vibe feels meditative, like a space of time carved out to be timeless. Shortly after 6:30, a vintage a cappella recording of the Irish folk tune “Sweet Forget-me-nots” layers over the piece, bringing a sense of vitality (through the human voice) but also age (through the clearly very old recording, of a seemingly old man) to the piece.

The video culminates in two shifts, which I’ll let you discover for yourself. “forget-me-not” is a great example of packing a lot of meaning into minimalist approaches, both sonically and visually. A Holy Hour is out now. 

April 2022 Singles

  1. Backbone (LIVE at Breiðarmerkurjökull)” – Kaleo. Trying to navigate the post-pandemic world is tricky for us all. For bands like KALEO, the Icelandic rockers who toured the globe for two years opening for the Rolling Stones before the world stopped moving, returning to their homeland may be the best way to reignite their last release Surface Sounds, produced by Dave Cobb and J Julius Son, while attempting to embark back out on the road.

    Filmed in an ice cave on Breiðarmerkurjökul, the location’s majestic landscape is a return to simpler times. “Backbone” vibrates with urgency and hope for us all. Sonically raw, songwriter and lead vocalist J Julius Son taps into authenticity that resonates through the notes. Rarely do songs like these come together in a vacuum: Rubin Pollock (guitar, vocals), Daniel Kristjánsson Davíð (bass), and Antonsson (percussion) help the music transcend time and space. – Lisa Whealy

2. “Fall” – Tapani Rinne & Juha Mäki-Patola. The breathy, elegant, almost reverent ambient/jazz here is deeply felt and perfectly turned. This is one way to expertly calm a room.

3. “Roots” – DJ Karaba. Punchy, groovy, and svelte, this electronic cut manages to keep the energy going and calm things down at the same time.

4. “DDHR Single Edit” – Language Lab (Sco). Glitchy, gnarly techno sounds meet smooth pads, acoustic guitar, and found-sound spoken word for a trippy, mesmerizing experience.

5. “An Opening” – MAYSUN. Whirring, stuttering, and dense, this CUTS-like electro-sonic landscape is a solid block of icy, fascinating synths.

6. “Saudade” – Pearz. Flute-based jazz with tropicalia, Space Age Bachelor Pad, and ’70s soundtrack vibes liberally applied. Very fun.

7. “Afternoon Map” – Nelson Esposito Quintana. Expansive, genre-bending music here that ingests flamenco, prog, post-rock, and jazz (and more, I’m sure). One for the adventurous among us!

8. “At Smith Creek” – Fog Chaser. I love a good gentle meditation on nature, and Fog Chaser’s sixth piece is exactly that. Fans of the Album Leaf will love this one so much.

9. “Haul Away Joe” – Shane Parish. A deconstructed/reconstructed version of a sea shanty, filtered through solo electric guitar experimentation. I love a good concept, and this concept pays off in spades.

10. “Shroud of Silence” – VATSWAV. Thick, dark, unapologetically electronic work that lands the listener in a vaguely dystopian/science fiction/TRON-esque realm.

11. “Giants” – Anzola. Downtempo work that flirts with hip-hop, trip-hop and ambient before settling into a space between them all.

Independent Clauses 2022 Quarter 1 Playlist

It’s that time again, y’all! Lisa and I have compiled some songs that you just can’t miss from Quarter 1 of 2022. There’s a lot going on here: singer/songwriter (Seth Walker, Jesper Lindell x2), inspired funk (The Bogie Band), jazz (Steven Bernstein’s Millenial Territory Orchestra), indie rock (Hippo Campus), unclassifiable instrumental stuff (Drone San, Jacques Green) and more. Enjoy!

Premiere: Juffbass’ Monolith

When my reviewing took a big shift from folk-pop/indie-pop to instrumental music in 2018, I spent a good amount of time explaining that I had just gotten into new things. That was true in many genres: I was not really reviewing trance at that time, and now I have reviewed several of Traversable Wormhole’s works.

But it was not true about post-rock. I have been listening to post-rock almost the entirety of Independent Clauses’ existence: the first mention of the term is in 2004 (although I wouldn’t use the term that way now), and I covered my first real post-rock track in 2005: an early track by Industries of the Blind. 273 of our 3063 posts have the word post-rock in them. That’s almost 10% of our posts! That’s surprising even to me.

So, what I’m saying here is that I’ve listened to a surprising amount of post-rock over the course of this blog, but this is only the second post-rock premiere (and first full album premiere) we’ve ever done. Every day brings something new!

JuffBass’s Monolith is also something new for Juffbass. The solo outfit previously made post-rock only with bass guitar and percussion, creating long, shifting tracks that appeal to my sensibilities as a bass player and as a fan of post-rock. With Monolith, Juffbass has added electric guitar to the bass-and-drums approach, creating an album that pays homage to the soaring aspects of post-rock now available to Juffbass while not forsaking the subtle, nuanced takes of previous work.

There are, of course, two major schools of electric guitar-based post-rock: the slow/dark/heavy onslaught of Explosions in the Sky / Godspeed You! Black Emperor and the soaring/twinkling/major key rush of Lights and Motion et al. Monolith is on the soaring/twinkling/major key side of things. Yet Juffbass’s prior work in an unusual vein brings a unique sensibility to these pieces. While the guitars go suitably acrobatic and some of the guitar pedals/effects will be well-known to post-rock fans, a focus on bass brings a different vibe to the work. To accent the bass, Juffbass (generally) doesn’t fill out the space between the soaring treble and the thrumming bass with dense, mid-range electric guitar; instead, there’s just, well, space. The results are a wide-open, expansive sonic experience: there’s no clutter or claustrophobia, just parts moving together in a wide plain. It’s an engaging take on the style.

The guitar-heavy opener “The End of the Spectrum” suggests that Juffbass is very aware of the shifts in sound from the last album to this one. This is one of the few tracks that has prominent mid-range guitar in it below the lead lines, giving this a very iconic post-rock vibe and putting it at the far end of the sonic spectrum from his bass-only recordings in complexity. (Several of the tracks have counterpoint guitar lines, but less often does Juffbass go for chunky chords more traditionally found in the rhythm section of a post-rock band.) “Rooftops of Montréal” supercharges the cymbals to match a standout guitar melody, making this one a highlight of the outfit’s new sound and the record.

But it’s “Meet Me Where We Can Hear the Trains” that starts to show off what Juffbass’s vision can really be. “Meet Me” carries much of the pensive, slowly-transforming approach from the bass-only work into the guitar-and-bass space. The results are a subtle approach to a gentle groove, with the guitar, bass, and drums working together to create a uniquely evocative experience. Highlight track “Personal Reminiscence” is another example of this working perfectly, as punchy drums punctuate carefully-meted-out guitar notes. The contrast is perfectly landed, making for excellent listening. “Planes II” is a rework of an earlier bass-only track–even with added guitar, this one is bass-heavy and elegant. It’s one for the old fans.

Even though Juffbass has added electric guitars to the mix in this record, this collection of tunes still feels light and easy to listen to. The careful composition and unique mixing make Monolith a distinctive collection. Fans of big, light-dappled, splashy post-rock will find lots to love here, while also being treated to a novel sonic perspective. Highly recommended.

Monolith lands April 26, 2022. Check out Juffbass at SpotifyInstagram, and Bandcamp.

Stop Everything and Listen: Sightseeing by Aaron Fisher and Rob Stephenson

I’ve seen lots of music blogs come and go in the time I’ve been writing Independent Clauses. Lots of things happen to kill a blog: people get too busy with day-job work, people stop listening to the music they used to cover, people burn out, life changes happen, people move on to other interests, cofounders quit, sometimes you get DDOS’ed by Grimes. You know. Things happen.

Anyway, we turn 19 on May 15, 2022. We are not going anywhere. We are still here. It does look a bit quiet right now, but I’m here to say that you shouldn’t worry. The thing is this: even though we have only posted four times since March 1, I have been listening to new music every day. Lisa has been listening to stuff too! Things happen. But! Not blog-ending things. Just stuff.

I say all this by way of apology to Aaron Fisher and Rob Stephenson. Honestly, a huge chunk of the music I have been listening to daily has been Sightseeingthe duo’s debut collaboration. Last.FM (yes, I still use this service) reports that I have listened to this album more than 20 times, which is frankly an enormous amount for me before writing about it. (Four, maybe five times is usual.) Given that I’ve listened to it roughly five times more than I usually do before writing about a thing, it is safe to assume that I like it much more than the usual album review here. Sightseeing is a balm; it’s nine pieces of calm in a ludicrously uncalm world; it’s a rest for the spirit; it’s a collection of carefully turned beauty. It’s astonishing.

Fisher and Stephenson’s pieces offer up acoustic guitars, electric guitars, percussion, horns, and other bits that are easily recognizable as Americana. Yet these instrumentals are far from the standard fare–not by ethos, but by quality. Each of these tracks are enveloping, immersive songs that wash over the listener whether you’re using headphones, car stereos, house stereos, phone speakers, you name it. The deeply felt pieces here translate no matter what level of fidelity you’re working with. (I have, as you may have guessed, listened to Sightseeing on all of those types of speakers.)

Opener “Blue Jay – Blue Night” is a beautiful opening statement, a cascading series of acoustic guitar runs that warm my soul and pedal steel notes that offer a floating glory. The piece will catch the ear of any Americana purist but also those who love meditative music; SUSS fans and Fahey fans can get together on it. “Riconoscere” is my personal favorite, a mellifluously developed piece that revels in its own beauty. It reminds me of Ezra Feinberg’s slowly-unfolding pieces. “Louie” moves in a similar direction, opening with thirty seconds of gentle mood-setting percussion before ambling elegantly onward. (Yes, you can amble elegantly.) The five-minute “Merino Ghost” splits the difference between Low Anthem-style immaculate folk and jazz; the results are stunning.

I could keep going on this record, but I don’t want to ruin all the surprises that this duo has for the listener. This whole collection is just outstanding, beautiful, wonderful. It’s a stop-everything-and-listen recommendation from me, the sort of (gentle) lightning in a bottle that doesn’t come around that often. Wow. Highly recommended.