Music Review: jphono1 “Living Is Easy”

by Douglas Cowie on 23 February 2012

 jphono1 Living Is Easy Potluck
John Harrison, here releasing his first solo album, writes beautiful melodies and picks them out on his acoustic guitar, and accompanies that guitar playing with singing.
That sentence makes proceedings sound straightforward, and in a way they are: the songs proceed, midpaced, for three minutes here, two minutes there. But look at the album cover: there’s an astronaut riding that horse, so this is no ordinary cowboy, and John Harrison is no ordinary singer-songwriter.  To the guitar-vocal base he adds a galaxy of other sounds, from banjos and harmonicas to synthesizers, ambient recordings, various percussion instruments, and who knows what else.  These instruments and sounds form some kind of intricate but low-key space junk orchestra, as though while floating weightless on that horseback interstellar orbit, the astronaut reached slowly out to take hold of the ephemera jettisoned by other travellers, and brought them into harmony.  The effect on the album generally is to create a tone that suggests Major Tom before things started going wrong for him, a kind of space cowboy utopia in which, yeah, okay, I will go and reposition the sun, and I will tell everyone.  And on “Pre Ghost Eyes,” John Harrison creates a small moment of sonic genius: a clock ticks, and another begins to chime the hour, and as it does, a shrill alarm clock begins to ring, a single hammered note, maybe a half-step lower, begins to turn that shrill alarm clock into a melody, completed by the entrance of a lower note on the acoustic guitar, which then establishes the introductory riff.  Three instruments—alarm clock, a bell (?) and a guitar—combine to make a tiny, unrepeated melody.  It’s a wonderful moment that exemplifies the beauty of this album.  The half hour of music here lifts you into space with it, and after it’s set you back down to earth, lingers in your ears and mind as it floats back off into orbit.
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