Wsetern Vinyl, 2012
REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/01/2012
Anyone who has spent considerable time driving long stretches alone at night can understand the mystery and fascination by listening to Jesse Marchant’s solo vehicle JBM. Marchant is a Brooklyn artist who bypasses all the hipster fluff currently littering indie rock. Stray Ashes came to fruition via long winters holed up in desolate log houses. The result is the sort of stark and cryptic sound that warrants late night contemplation while absorbing an endless expanse of scenery at 60 MPH.
Going in reverse with his songwriting protocol this time, Marchant began with electric guitar melodies and drum looping for Stray Ashes. Later on, as he moved from various recording spots, he filled the songs out until he was only left with the vocals. Finally, he finished it up by writing down various lyrics while wandering the streets of New York, listening to the tracks sans vocals in his headphones.
The result? Well, it’s not exactly an easy sound to describe. It’s certainly hazy, sometimes so much so it sounds like a musical layer of dense fog. Other pockets are chocked full of hypnotic rhythms and guitars are often soaked in reverb. The muted sounds and mysterious atmospheres further complicate the ability to file this one under a specific category. JBM easily defies all classification.
The disc opens with “Ferry,” a song that sounds exactly like what the cover art depicts – brooding, nostalgic, a sound that warrants mulling it over. The following song “Only Now” tugs at the heartstrings, with Marchant asking where a friend abruptly went. Though he works with an eclectic version of alt-folk, on tracks like “You Always Keep Around” and “Crooked Branches,” his lap steel injects a warm, Americana feel to complement his gentle strumming.
A disc that pushes and pulls with emotive tension, occasionally building and erupting into ebbs of lush instrumentation, Stray Ashes makes excellent use of electronic looping, gentle guitars, and spacey soundscapes. This is a soothing, almost meditative listen of mystery and emotion. This is nothing short of stunning.