EP Review: Jamison Isaak: EP2

‘Providing 16 minutes of musical serenity, it relaxes you to the core’

Intro to Jamison:
While there is every chance that you won’t know the
name Jamison Isaak, there is a chance you may have
heard tracks by him. Teen Daze? That’s Jamison. Pacific Coliseum? That’s him too. You see, until the release of his debut EP (EP1) earlier this year, British Columbia based Jamison Isaak had been releasing music since 2010 under a few different guises. Now though, with him releasing under his own name, a sense of instrumentally centred honesty comes to the fore. Beautifully following on from his debut, EP2 provides 16 minutes of musical serenity.

Featured Track 1: First
Instantly cinematic, the initial soundscape of the appropriately titled opening track ‘First’ is one of gently emerging glitchy samples and phase shifted ideas. Incredibly reminiscent of Steve Reich’s New York Counterpoint, it’s beautifully transportive. Unapologetically demonstrating a refreshing approach to modern minimalistic music, there are hints of tonal conflict between the free sounding melodic fragments
and the regimented accompaniment. Given this and the furious panning, you may expect it to feel unsettling but instead it feels harmonious and provides perfect guidance into a more guitar centred sound.

Noticeably turning into a set of sequence based ideas and sitting above the sustained synths, the development within brings a sense of anticipation. As you may predict, this is in its most gentle of forms. It’s not dramatic. Nor does it give anything away about the track’s direction. Instead, the slow melodic developments allow an almost song like structure to evolve creating an atmosphere which balances experimentation with accessibility. With the track, and indeed the whole EP being entirely instrumental, this is an achievement in itself, but through the use of harmonics within these melodies, it soon becomes a masterclass in subtlety.

Having reached its zen-like like sound, we find ourselves subconsciously floating and drifting in and out of listening. This is by no means down to a lack of interest, but a result of Jamison’s incredibly soothing musicality. Switching to aptly dreamy bell-like organ, variations of the earlier melodic fragments become increasingly intriguing and paired with interweaving piano motifs, it it makes an enticing opening track.

Featured Track 2: Us
Bringing about a complete change of pace and atmosphere, the calming ending of ‘First’ makes way for a fusion of jazz-esque rhythms and minimalist devices in the shape of ‘Us’. Formed of effortlessly infectious piano motifs, there is a real sense of excitement and causing you to conjure up your own images, it feels like the perfect soundtrack to a cityscape time lapse.

With this new found atmosphere firmly established, the first of many subtle developments begin to gently transform the track. Focusing on the use of contrasting pitches, the initial motifs – which sit above drone style accompanying elements – are joined by harmonic variations, selective accents and intensely phase shifted high-pitched fragments. Essentially based around an incredibly simplistic main motif, it makes for a wondrous listening experience. Each alteration has its place and with the resulting textural changes, you find yourself being drawn to each one at different moments.

As is ever the case with music of this style, finding the balance between interest, repetition and true musicality can be one of the hardest things to do. But done well, it can make for some of the most stirring music that there can be. Thankfully here it is not just done well, but superbly and through unexpected uses of octave centred chords and rhythmically pulsing sonar-like fragments, it becomes a track of real beauty.

Featured Track 3: Animals
Perfectly contrasting with both previous tracks, track 3 ‘Animals’ immediately feels more sombre. Beginning with a magical sounding combination of deep organ, bowed style drones and distant rain samples, the energetic musicality of before has gone to be replaced by one of a heavily atmospheric nature. This of course doesn’t mean that the wider musicality has. In fact it’s not just as clear, it’s a stand out track due to it.

Shifting from the subtle melodic developments of earlier, the focus here is one of dynamic contrasts. Creating growth, the sustaining elements crescendo in the most gentle of ways and in doing so ensure that the perfect setting for the mid -pitched piano melody is formed. The sound at this point is one that’s stylishly reserved. There aren’t full on cross-cutting rhythms, but ones more delicate and dreamlike. This said, the echo-affected strings bring a harsher, yet perfectly complimenting edge. It’s actually quite touching. The one thing that really stands out within Animals’ though is it’s sparsity.

Other than during the opening minute or so, very little changes. The instrumentation remains mostly centred on those which entered in the initial moments. The texture in the main does likewise. But therein lies the success of the track. Unlike before this point – where every idea has built on the previous one – here the ideas and their development is taken towards the extreme end of minimal. The result however is one of beauty, peace and honesty.

Featured Track 4: Peace
Bringing EP2 to the most suitable of conclusions, the final track, ‘Peace’ is one which envelopes you in a slow moving soundscape of atmospheric textures. As expected there are numerous musical strokes which really capture the track’s title, but unexpectedly there are also hints of musical tension. These, for the opening at least, are where the real musicianship and interest lies as with every momentary harmonic clash, suitable resolution is found ensuring this never actually materialises.

Moving through the peacefully cinematic sound, it soon becomes clear that this is to be the focus of the track. Don’t expect the development of minimalistic motifs here. In creating this atmosphere though there is anticipation and warmth in equal measure. Yes there are moments which are not dissimilar to the opening track, but here there is a heightened and most welcomed sense of freedom.

Initially suggested by the simultaneous layering of free flowing wind, percussive and breathy synths, the absence of pulse is replicated within the melodic piano content. Sounding like a live recording, the timing of each note is unpredictable making it feel the most experimental of the whole EP. However, the delicacy of its delivery makes it feel precise and thoughtful and in creating a spa like opulence, it relaxes you to the core.

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