Those who follow Jameson Nathan Jones‘s popular and highly amusing YouTube channel already know he’s an avid collector of synthesisers with a particular enthusiasm for modular synthesis. In an attic somewhere in Laurel, Mississippi, he’s amassed an enormous collection of tape machines, standalone synths, and constantly evolving synth racks.
What may not immediately be clear from a quick glance at the channel is that he’s also a fantastic pianist and a church organist to boot. In 2018 he released Sanctuary Sessions, a rich and compelling album that grew out of a series of piano improvisations recorded in the sanctuary of the church where he serves as organist. A Bandcamp reviewer called Ambientologist sums it up perfectly: “Undoubtedly destined for great things, Jones offers a beautiful and thought-provoking collection of soul-searching melodies and mind-cleansing textures. Most impressive, however, is the mastery of the album’s overall production. More than a simple collection of piano pieces, Sanctuary Sessions marks a significant development in Jones’ creative and technical proficiency, its already wonderful compositions given additional emotive capabilities.” What Ambientologist highlights is the joy of Jones’ music: his ability to take a simple musical idea, layer it, warp it, and endow it with such complexity and grace that it takes off. We witnessed that again in 2019’s Static Deviations, a collection of nine pieces combining organic elements—piano, ‘cello, and human voice—with electronics and tape loops, which led to reviews featuring words like “masterful” and “divine”.
Somewhat the Same is, ahem, somewhat the same: a series of sonic experiments, where Jones introduces a simple-seeming idea and explores its possibilities, an approach that a certain church organist called J.S. Bach would have enthusiastically endorsed, having done exactly the same thing 400-years ago with a different instrumental palette. Perhaps the ability to alter the sound produced by the church organ pushes organists towards this style of composition; perhaps it was also the trigger that first encouraged Jones to begin his attic-based experimentations with synthesis. In any case the results presented in “Somewhat The Same” make for a compelling listen.
The organ of his local church features heavily in two tracks, most spectacularly in the mind-blowingly good “Walls”, which quite literally gives this reviewer spine-tingles every time he hears it. As the track opens the organ breathes, sounding benevolent, before deep bass notes add a sinister tone, which grows and grows, complemented and enriched by synths, building to a spectacular climax. Another highlight is “Roots”, an electrifying collaboration with violinist Laura Masotto and drummer BP Moore, which you can hear below.
Not all of the tracks lead to such dramatic heights, but the level of subtle complexity never dips. The title track, which follows “Walls”, is a good example, as is the opening track “Turning”, the creation of which Jones explores with typically wry humour in the video below, best watched once you’ve listened to the track in full. As his reactions to the comments illustrate, Jones is generous with his time and has been rewarded with an enthusiastic and engaged set of followers. Fans of independent musicians and of synthesis would be well-advised to join them. (Garreth Brooke)