Alternative music reviews

Onion Jack

Before The Flood Aug 2003

Four tracks on this CD are quiet, slighly morose, and fragile. Plenty of atmospheric reverbed keyboards and some delicate vocals. They are often nearly static in terms of movement like some of the Penguin Cafe Orchestras works. Peaceful but not soporific - but very much waiting for the right mood to strike you before you want to listen to them. The track listing has 6 tracks on but I can't seem to find one of them. Maybe Onion Jack are too chilled for me even though I appreciate the unsettling quality of their work - but there is something I've left out.

One track stands out as very different. Believe Don't Believe starts with samples of a sound like monks singing plainchant topped by Daniel Vincent's plaintive voice. Then an overdriven guitar starts playing swirling bass riffs followed a minute later by regular breaks of a fuzzed lead guitar. After 5 minutes there is a break as a clean guitar takes over. The electric monks begin to move a bit closer again over solo guitar before being bolstered by a low, gravelly electronic rhythm and everyone takes a minute to come to a halt and go home. My reaction to all that is to put the track on all over again - it's been a long time since a 10 minute track has held my attention like that and repeated listenings over weeks hasn't dulled it's atmospheric and melodic fascination.

After The Bar Closes May 2003

Chilled melancholia from this South London indie band. This Ep is a collection of tracks from previous EPs - a kind of near-time retrospective in preparation for recording new stuff. Miracle In You has nice wonky guitar, lots of reverb, and atmospheric noises. The Answer is a quietly beautiful song full of questions. Train Conversation (ambient mix) has an eclectic instrumental backing that adds to the intriguing vocal.The last two tracks do nothing for me perhaps because they are not really songs and it's their songs I really like.

Quiet and tender, Onion Jack have songs for late nights. The singing and grasp of minor-key melody is wonderful.Slightly little self-indulgent at times - or perhaps playful is a better word. It doesn't need to be because the quality of the songwriting is there, the guitar and synths are played with sensitivity and restraint, and they understand quietness. The vocals are really very special.

From a personal point of view I would like more silence and less reverb because the underlying emotion of the songs will shine though even more strongly (please do a version of The Answer with acoustic guitar!). So, not the finished article yet, but getting there in style. Who do they sound like? I really can't say because they may be absorbing influences but they let them escape in a very original way. In fact the only similarities I can find are with the wonderful Things In Herds (see my review of them). I look forward to their next release which should be coming in the post very soon.

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