John Harrison, guitarist and vocalist for Chapel Hill fuzzy smart-rockers North Elementary, plays two release shows this weekend for his latest solo record. Know Your Clouds, the second LP under the Jphono1 identity, diverges a bit from the finger-picked debut, especially in the addition of hypnotic extended instrumental sections. Harrison’s newest gadget, a Roland JUNO synthesizer, features prominently, resulting in textures that range from early Beck abstractions to noisy, homegrown psych-outs.
Tonight at 9:30, Jphono1 plays Chapel Hill’s Nightlight with Prisms, Ye Olde Shoppe and Wichita Falls. Tomorrow sees a 2 p.m. in-store at Flyleaf Books, alongside Wesley Wolfe and a reading by Bleeder author Shelby Smoak.
“The keyboard was appealing to me for this time, the picture was appealing to me. And the title, I just like it,” says Harrison (the cover art is from the wedding of local musicians Ginger Wagg and Laura King). “It kind of reminds me of when you’re in physical science class in the 6th grade. It’s like, one of those questions where, ‘What are the three types of clouds?’”
One thing Harrison wanted to explore in Know Your Clouds, he says, is differences in active and passive listening, which led him to insert long zone-outs in the middle of otherwise direct pop songs. Some of these are simple, loop-like repetitions, while others lead into discord and guitar noise. And the quick, though incredibly rewarding, “Wolf in my Pocket” follows almost the opposite principle, with its delicate, piano-driven lament laced with jarring election season TV news samples.
“A couple of things could happen,” he explains, “to a listener where it’s like, ‘Oh, here’s this song. It’s kind of catchy. I like it,’ and then they’re washing dishes, and five minutes later, ‘Is that the same song?’”
There’s also a simpler motivation behind much that he writes: He loves his guitar. “When I can build spots to just play music,” he says, “I kind of am preferring that.”