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Even In The Arctic, You’ll Find A Friend In John

Posted by Scotio on August 27, 2008

Friend John, an unsigned artist that I’ve previously reviewed, has released another album. This one is titled Arctica (or You Just Have To Exist). The concept of the album is one set for the winter/Arctic type of season/situation. And, just like that concept, the album takes you on a journey of isolation, being lost, feeling cold, and possible danger. You have to respect FJ’s work ethos for churning out music at such a rate . . . even though the release is a compilation of tracks previously recorded and assembled together.

The opening track is one of the title cuts, “You Just Have To Exist.” The song is mainly just John and his out of tune acoustic guitar. With the guitar riff looping, John sings the words “You just have to be there/ You just have to exist…” as if he’s either fighting a dazed slumber or undergoing a spell of delirium. With an electronic sound going on in the mixture that I could best relate it to as a Robot’s Kazoo. Originally, I was a little put off when I first heard the song. It wasn’t until I remember the concept of the album that I began to understand and get into the song. It’s similar to being out in the Arctic with no one around and you’re terribly missing the one you love most. In that mindframe, you can feel and understand the longing and the slight mental breakdown that this song embodies. The following track, “Portland,” builds on that concept. As John belts out “Woohoo Yeah Yeah!” throughout most of the song, you get the feeling that he’s really losing, or became drunk as hell. Further living out the loneliness that takes place in a Winter Hazardland. Whichever Portland that the song is labeled after, I definitely wouldn’t want to get lost at that place.

On the track “Kincajou”(say that 10 times fast!), FJ brings out the funk. Housing a bassline strong enough to make a Down South rap fan grin with glee. The song features an odd combination of horror movie synths, an acoustic guitar and the aforementioned bassline for the first minute and forty-one seconds of the song. After that point, the drums attack faster, as well as the addition of congos. The other parts of the guitar riff are also revealed around this part of the song. The synths are removed for the middle portion of the song, but returns for the final quarter of the track. As strange as it might sound to most, this is definitely one of my favorite tracks on this release.

“Arctica,” the other title track(originally called Ingrid Chiles), is a lengthy one. Clocking in at 10 minutes and 6 seconds, you might be a little put for the listen. If such is the case, then you’re missing one of the most beautiful tracks of the whole album. It grows progressively throughout the entire length, adding and taking away elements to keep you stuck in a state of isolation. The introduction of the song can be closely related to hearing an intergalactic visitor phoning home. Even if you’re listening to this song in a crowded room with someone rubbing elbows with you, you’ll feel like the closest person to you is over 100 miles away. He uses both live instruments and computer music to create something so magical from somewhere that most of us would be afraid to dwell towards. If there’s a track that you should listen to just to think and be alone with your thoughts, Friend John has created such a thing for you.

For the song “Spiraling Down,” FJ brings about a very accurate sense of completely losing everything. I haven’t heard such a strong depiction of that emotion since Trent Reznor’s The Downward Spiral. This is the type of song that I imagine would be playing while Jack wrote on his typewriter in The Shining(All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy). “A Glance Through Open Eyes” is a somewhat hopeful track. The more uptempo James Tamborello-inspired mastery of the electronic/computer created music along the lines of something featured on Something Always Goes Wrong. Friend John demonstrates what he could do if he completely dived into the Glitch/IDM field without any restraints. A few setbacks are like the tracks “October,” “Space” and “Explosions.” The former of the tracks just seems a little too organic for this collection of songs. The last two tracks just seem too upbeat and, in the case of “Explosions,” cluttered to play nicely with the other songs here.

Again, Friend John is a newer field for this artist. And, Arctic shows a more ambient side to his persona. Just as Version For Maddie displayed the promise of what he is capable of doing in the more Glitch side of music, Arctic demonstrates his hunger to swim in the waters of Ambience with enough passion that you believe he could battle a Navy SEAL with enough practice. Notable Tracks are “Spiraling Down,” “A Glance Through Open Eyes,” and “Kincajou.”

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