Josh Varnedore ~ Sun Chapter

Josh Varnedore is the Josh in Amman/Josh, along with Amman Abbasi.  Abbasi lends a hand on “Vertebrae”, while Hammock contributes to “186,000 endings per second and Hideki Umezawa (Pawn) chips in on “Earth”.  The presence of such friends guarantees that the album will be a success; the only drawback is that it struggles to establish its own identity.  Even before reading the liner notes, one remarks, “This first track sounds like Pawn!”, although the second, thanks to a wordless, Hopelandic-styled vocal, sounds just as much like Sigur Rós as it does Hammock.  However, there are many worse things than to be compared to these artists, and as a fan of all three, I found Sun Chapter to be sweetly alluring.

These early tracks – three of the first four – are the strongest selections here, treading familiar yet cherished ground.  The way “Earth” descends into fragmentation – the chimes seeming to disintegrate before our very ears – causes the listener to lean into the recording, to chase echoes like dandelion seeds.  The quicker pace of “186,000 endings per second” – the title track of Varnedore’s preceding EP – energizes the listener like a morning shower.  The synthesized handclaps, when they arrive, are expected but not unwelcome.  And yes, Virginia, there is a glockenspiel.  “Vertebrae” is carried by cheerful piano chords, swirling synths and reverberated guitars, a combination familiar to most of our readers.

The second half of the album delves into what one might call mainstream ambience – the type that typically provides the background for nature videos.  And guess what!  The video for “Sunhoney” portrays flowers moving softly in the breeze, the video for “Golden” displays waves of golden sand, and the video for “Clouds” presents – oh, go on, guess.  So at this point, the question is begging to be asked: is the artist at all concerned with being edgy and experimental?  Not in the least.  Varnedore chooses to do more of what he already does well to please an audience that already exists.  There is nothing wrong with this approach, but it’s fair to say that the continuation of a successful formula is the album’s main characteristic.  So listen for the quiet operatic vocals at the end of “Sun Honey”, entwined with birdsong; the slightly warped piano fadeout of “Golden”; or that Jónsi voice again at the end of “Clouds”.  You’ve heard this manner of music before; it’s only a question of how much more you’d like in your collection.  (Richard Allen)

Available here

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