Jphono1: You Are Here To Be Around
[Potluck Foundation; Nov. 13]
John Harrison has been a fixture of the Triangle music scene for decades, with his work with The Comas and North Elementary and as the founder of Potluck Foundation. In recent years, his ever-expanding project Jphono1 has become a focus.
The solo endeavor has morphed into an amalgamation of musical ideas, including an iteration as a roots-tinged band called Jphono1 and the Chevrons. But, as with so many others in the musical universe, Harrison had to toss his plans for 2020 aside because of COVID-19. Thus, a project slated as a full-band excursion became a reflective solo record, You Are Here to Be Around.
The album explores the outer reaches of Harrison’s songwriting, blending plainspoken psych-folk tracks with sonic explorations. “Safety Sherpa” hums with soft synth pads and ambient electronic whirring as Harrison noodles with weightless piano keys.
“HOMe” is equally entrancing, with a meditative mantra composed around acoustic guitar and an overdubbed refrain of “home.”
Harrison embraces wildly different ends of the musical spectrum on You Are Here To Be Around, from cerebral electronics to fingerpicked acoustic guitar—a contrast that lends the pacing a spastic feel. The woozy “Baked Burrito No 2” slides into a psychedelic haze with its trailing guitar lines and oscillating synths—but before you realize it, you’re thrust into the bare-boned guitar rhythms of “Freedom, LARGE.”
Listeners will discover the album’s most straightforward arrangements on the titular “Here to Be Around,” as well as on “The Wolves That Raised You,” “Shake,” and “Turning to Sky.” The twists and turns that Harrison takes to arrive at these tracks are what makes the record so enjoyable. With its haunting woodwinds and cacophonous percussive hits, “Cycles and Circles” feels ripped from an early ’90s “Drums/Space” take from a Grateful Dead set. “Dirty Drums” is a two-minute jaunt into fervid psych-rock. “Peyote Brunch,” meanwhile, is a quick peek into gassed-up free jazz.
Harrison deploys vocals sparsely throughout, making them that much more potent when he sets in with his weighty reflections. The expansive “Turning To Sky,” told from the perspective of an astronaut, closes the record with a timely refrain: “Daybreak is gold/The Earth will spin/It’s on fire, but I’m sleeping in/Hits all at once, then it is gone/Comes back around if you leave it alone.”
In the liner notes, Harrison talks about the album becoming a portal for “unfinished ideas.” The fragmentary throughlines remind us that this is not the album he set out to make, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing: These hastily arranged recordings serve as aural bridges that guide the listener into new sonic territories.
With this release, Harrison has crafted a captivating ode to acquiescent self-exploration.
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