10 May 2019 (released)
20 June 2019
One of the regular criticisms of music involving a degree of electronic production is that the process robs it of its inherent natural rhythm and that that non-linearity is what gives the music its soul. Some argue that snapping everything to a grid eliminates the intrinsic push and pull that real live players give to the tracks. Furthermore, using too many digital sounds (those compressed to a series of zeros and ones or generated by a machine) drains the life out of the music, leaving a cold, harsh to the ear mess. However....what if you could use the power of electronic production, its ability to create hypnotic soundscapes and dense layers of instrumentation but populate these pieces with not just real, live instruments but samples of sounds found in nature, adhering to their own natural rhythms? Wouldn't that be the best of both worlds?
Within the more evolved circles of electronic producers, there is a movement to take advantage of the natural rhythms of everyday occurrences to craft more nuanced soundscapes. Producer Amon Tobin has had great success in using common noises heard in everyday life (eg: chains dropping, a muffler rattling, cars crashing) to weave together beats that challenge the mind because they don't comply to a rigorous notion of 1,2,3,4.
Bellingham, Washington producer Jeads has found great success in incorporating “found sounds” into his compositions, which feature him playing live instruments to programmed beats. The result is a mesmerizing montage of organic textures that soothe in a way that wholly electronically created music just can't touch. The composer is based in the heart of the Pacific Northwest, a region whose natural wonders (the sounds, the smells and the sights), provide endless inspiration to a musical mind. The twigs of the forest floor cracking underfoot, the rhythmic yet uncalculated wash of waves upon the shore, animals rustling through the trees. All these sounds have a sporadic beauty to their rhythms and our bodies react to that. It's a rhythm that can't be faked. Jeads inhabits a similar realm to projects like Bonobo that have a home in the late night hours when words fail and the pretences of the daytime have been left behind.
Nocturnal Signal is one of a three-part series. One part is a solo jazz guitar album, another is fully formed around field recordings. The current release is a melding of these two styles to produce a record with rhythms guided by the natural world with melodics based around Jeads organic guitar and synth lines. The opener 'Deep in the Night's smooth pulsing beat is accented by slowly diffusing snare rattle while pristine acoustic guitar layers in a sublime melody. Whirring synth swells bridge the gap with the analog instruments. Everything breathes simpatico. The title track cracks and rattles with natural samples that sync together to create the skeleton on which the track is built. This focus on subliminal sonic markers informs the rest of the composition giving it a masterfully delicate nature. Light bells dance among exhaling swells of reverb. 'Nocturnal Signal' transports you to a deserted landscape in the dead of night where nature, unprovoked, creates its own symphony.
'Lost in the Shoreline' lives up to its title with harmonic shimmers and wistful strings swaying over the wash of waves. A sparse shaker combo loosely holding together the beat through the lingering intro. The moving orchestral swells remain as the beat picks up speed. The meditative stare out into the open ocean is replaced by the exhilaration of a speedboat cruise. This subtle yet emotionally enthralling piece is Jeads at his finest. The album is capped off with the acoustic closer 'Late Night Meditation' which could very well be the title for the entire album.
Nocturnal Signal is a brilliantly executed album of rich yet understated acoustically driven electronica. You can easily let your mind wander and be taken away by its spell or focus on its myriad of well-crafted sonic passages. Either way, a highly enjoyable experience. 4.5 Stars.