Thursday, June 18, 2009

Jonathan Kane, Jet Ear Party, Radium/Table of the Elements

Mining the vein opened by his first solo album, February (2005), and later by his very successful EP, I Looked at the Sun (2006), Jonathan Kane continues down the shores of “progressive blues” with Jet Ear Party. Kane winds and unwinds catchy loops, purging the genre of all incidentals, keeping only the essential: the telltale chiseled riff, repeated ad infinitum. A pursuit that began with his collaborations with some of New York's most prominent minimalists, Kane’s quest travels backwards in time to the blues, the genre from which he draws his main inspiration: “Listen to Mississippi Fred McDowell, Son House, John Lee Hooker. These artists will often play pieces consisting of one droning chord and a hypnotic, repetitive riff!”

Jet Ear Party isn't happy simply to dig the plot mapped out by February. With his new album, Kane frees himself from Rhys Chatham's influence to discover his own voice, that of a jubilant Americana launched at full speed on the hot rails, bringing all the voices of the New Continent along with it. The tracks of Jet Ear Party are also spiced with new sonorities, lending passing winks and applied homages to Kane’s musical heroes. Slipping and sliding through the slow and irresistible progressions we came to love in February are denatured loops à la Phil Glass, heavy tremolos à la Chatham, the 2/4 measure of Ragtime, and jubilant funk riffs à la Sly Stone.

After forging this new route alone on February, the composer invites numerous collaborators aboard, making Jet Ear Party a story about friends. Passing from track to track, we chance upon his brother Anthony's harmonica, David Watson’s bagpipes, and Igor Cubrilovic's guitar. Finally with “Up in Flames,” a soul ballad that is certainly not the album's strongest piece, but absolutely its most touching, Kane silences his guitars to let the voluptuous voices of Lisa Burns and Peg Simone ring out, set to a text by Holly Anderson. Hypnotic, explosive, at times abrasive, Jonathan Kane’s music is always warm. We wish him many more happy encounters.

Words: Sophie Pécaud
Translation: Khira Jordan

Originally published on Chronicart, along with an interview with Jonathan Kane. English version available here.