Well, he’s done it. We were warned. It started to come out in Evil Urges, especially in ‘Thank you too’. Then it was full blown in Circuital, with the sheer powerhouses of ‘Wonderful (the way I feel)’ and ‘Holding on to black metal’. And now, in Regions of Light and Sound of God, Jim James (a.k.a. Mr. Sex Voice) has take us back to the 70s. Late 70s New York, with the groovy parties and art scenes. Late 70s California, with the drawn out “coming of age” road trips. You name it.
By no means am I implying that Jim James is wearing bell bottoms and singing dazzling disco tunes. No. I mean he’s done his alchemy and distilled the essence of 70s power pop. You know the one: experimental, full of atmospheres and quite dreamy.
Take the stunning, gorgeous album opener, ‘State of the art (A.E.I.O.U.)’, which quotes ‘Rock-a-bye Baby’ while still creating an enduring atmosphere that encompasses you and drenches you in pure magic. The occasional glitch added just gives it a jolt of eerieness. Is this a ghostly recording lost in time and space?
‘Know ’til now’ abandons Earth to travel through space. The magnificent musical arrangements are otherworldly and the song expands so fast you fear we might reach the Heat Death of the Universe. Judging by the mournful last notes of the instrumental bit we get at the end, it probably just happened.
But, yeah, let’s go back to Earth. 70s New York and as we walk by 52nd street, the chunky distortions of a trusty guitar are the soundtrack for our brisk walk in 52nd Street. ‘Dear one’ is more straightforward than its predecessors but sports enough jamming to render it beautiful. ‘A new life’ is very introspective, again, think 70s pop – ‘Alone again’, ‘All by myself’, but with a slightly cheerier demeanour. ‘Exploding’ might take away that cheeriness, as the instrumental track is as mournful as they make them. Certainly hard to be dry eyed by the end of it.
‘Of the mother again’ has some great bass lines, which, you guessed it, were a staple of 70s music and I for one welcome it: bass is sometimes terribly underused as a “just keep the rhythm” baton whereas it can add an extra layer of depth to the music. This song pulls the latter. ‘Actress’ has more gorgeous arrangements, with a string section elevating us to the rarefied atmospheres, where clouds born and die. Grab someone and slowly sway to this one and its sexy fuzzed out guitar. ‘All is forgiven’ is eerie, with that hypnotic sound (is it a wind instrument?) that charms us like an aggressive snake in a wicker basket.
‘God’s love to deliver’ could be a very soothing ballad, but Jim James‘ tone changes from wistful to dread-filled so deftly, you don’t know how to feel. Should you lower your guard and let yourself immerse into the foggy atmosphere or should you start kicking and swim back to shore before disappearing into oblivion? It’s a hard choice…
I’ve always had a soft spot for the latest output of My Morning Jacket. Don’t get me wrong, I love the older stuff, but both Circuital and Evil Urges have been the soundtrack to very strange (and important) events in my life. Regions of Light and Sound of God is as far as you can get from My Morning Jacket and it’s a perfect release for Jim James to do: he is flexing his musical muscles and painting a lovely mural for us to gaze upon. Maybe new memories will be made for up and coming events. Here’s hoping for the future and music like this.
Words: Sam J. Valdés López