31 August 2011

If This Is A Man - random acts of kindness have saved lives (Raamb, 2011)

Not much info about If This Is A Man, solo project of Jon White, recording songs in his bedroom, in the middle of England, Staffordshire, who at first is a fan of Radiohead, The Beatles, DJ Shadow, slowly contaminated by more underground stuff, would it be shoegaze (My Bloody Valentine), slowcore (The Red House Painters) or lo-fi (Daniel Johnston).

In reality he is probably in fact much more similarly-minded introvert / emotional artists from an aesthetic world he seems to be unaware of such as Debutant, Mars To Stay, Songs for Green Pheasant, Khale, Empire empire I was a lonely estate, 1986 or even Chuzzlewit. So there is a disprepancy between his lo-fi / intimate / melancholic / atmospheric impulses and more mainstream conventions (in terms of structure, textures and mastering) which is sometimes unpleasant.

Once that said, there are a few pearls on this album. Opening track, "Indelible" sees Jon White totally in terms with himself, for something both emotional, vaporous and enthralling. Definitely the way to go as you can feel other songs to unfold and deploy potentially into this one, defining a style.

On "Rabbit holes", the vocals seem disconnected from the guitar and it ruins the global effect as the intimacy effect is absent, same effect for "Shepard". But a strong return to success with the piano based track "Your Old Room" which has got something from the Blue Nile in its genome, while not denying its bedroom pop origin and exploring the melancholy of short days and cold early mornings. "Nostalgic" is pleasant you and it's when Jon White incorporates his dreamier dimensions that his songwriting makes sense and such songs on this album are premises of possible new authentic developments.

Next to the pleasant interlude "As Above As Below",  a song like "Little things" lacks of depth about its textures, blurriness and mystery, in order to reach the target. Last good surprise with "Starlings' where he lets the song wanders naturally and the, impact is positive.

The songwriting of Jon White is still a work in progress, but a promising one.


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