Last updated on October 27, 2020
JPH is an experimental outfit that is basically a slowcore acoustic band (a la Songs:Ohia) played at half-speed influenced by minimalist composers fond of repetition and subtle changes over time. A slowest-core band, perhaps. To wit: Jordan Parker Hoban and co. offer two pieces over 26 minutes in Live at Petra’s.
“Catskills” and “Hardest of Seasons to Gather” consist of acoustic guitar, electric guitar, harmonium, omnichord, banjo and mournful vocals. This collection of instruments allows for acoustic drones so long as to be eerie simply through their incredible expansiveness. The first five minutes or so of the sixteen-minute “Catskills” is simply ominous harmonium drones with delicate guitar thoughts atop them; this expands at the five-minute mark into a more multilayered piece, but not by much. The piece drops down into a melancholy electric guitar gloom before introducing the element that elevates the piece at 8:50: Hoban’s deeply melancholy, angst-ridden voice that repeats a refrain for the rest of the song (seven minutes) with minor variations. The whole effect is of mourning, which is fitting for this Halloween-dropped release that comes with a note encouraging listeners to have a “Happy Samhain, and remember the dead.”
The shorter “Hardest of Seasons to Gather” (which was seemingly not written about COVID, as this release was recorded February 15, 2020) is more warm, as the harmonium is not used to as eerie of ends. Harmonium is usually warm and cheery, and it supports a slightly more sprightly piece that gets up maybe to walking pace. Where “Catskills” leaned heavily into minimalist repetition with the trappings of acoustic work, this is primarily an acoustic work that has some trappings of minimalist. Hoban’s vocals are more hopeful and tuneful here (which still long, legato, and not traditionally cheery), giving the expansive song a bit of an acoustic Appleseed Cast vibe. Fans of post-rock will connect with this song more easily than the first, I think, as the song builds in a way that seems adjacent to post-rock work. The background vocals here are particular endearing to build that engaging atmosphere.
Live at Petra’s is a benefit release: “all proceeds from this album will go to support Petra’s during this time of pandemic.” So if you choose to buy this unique experimental record, you’ll be getting excellent music and helping a bar that supports local music in Charlotte, NC. If you’re up for some gloomy, long, thoughtful acoustic music (that is yet not without hope), Live at Petra’s will scratch that itch.