DJJD has left the Burlington

I picked up a copy of Ryan's new album the otherday sitting unassuming on the shelf @ Pure Pop. Having been blown away by his last effort Loventropy and feeling the need recently for more of his sound, a sort of a slow strummed blanket of missed connections and uncertainty.

When i got home, i got in a comfortable place, and hit play:

Immediately it struck me that this was not Loventropy -there's a bit of lush there in this opening track, synth strings, but this time there's a pronounced electronic element, an almost frantic gurgling and bleeping, Ryan starts crooning about ghosts looking for families, and dueting with himself, pitch shifted to a chipmunk, his voice drops out and we're left with the pulsing and minor keyed strings almost not enough, almost - when it seems like the song is over, a conversation starts between two voices - eventually as the electronics fade away leaving an ominous plinking piano the deep voice of DJJD turns his attention to us the listener:

"welcome to judgement day, this is DJJD, this is not a Scifi joke, this is the beginning of the the end of the beginning of the beginning of the the end..."

And in drops the sick, almost "disgusting" beat, electro drums stumble all around and an almost mocking voice asks repeatedly either, "understanding" or understand me" i can't tell... this is so strange, but it gets better.

he goes on to ask what gives life meaning, and so on... by this point i'm little disturbed, and more than a little loving it. As the electronically altered voice of DJJD fades out, a smooth electro-lounge beat fades in and here we are, back in prime RP territory, albeit, DJJD's Ryan power, gone are the lush strumming guitars, replaced with some sort of vocal sample that sounded like a digeri doo, and rolling waves of slinky lounge organ - The song has something to do with his battle with an Amphibian, as one point stating plainly,

"I could not break his neck, the scales were to strong for me..."

eventually one of his friends is blown apart due to the pressure of a decompression chamber; does this seem silly to you? are you laughing? because i wasn't - at no point during any of these songs did i laugh, i smiled nervously to myself, once or twice - but at no point did it seem that Ryan wasn't more than completely aware of what he was doing to me.

" grab the scalpel take us out of the formaldehyde, and let the dissection begin."

These songs are unbelievably self aware, obvious analogies to the pressures of love, residence, life, whatever - and where most shit eating folkies write verse after verse of the same self conscious drivel, here's someone taking all his voices, and turning them into some sort of bizarre psycho-sensual-scifi-electro-lounge kick in the balls.

"generally i don't like it when people talk over music like this...."

"go on"

"but it's the middle of February, and i feel, a little crazy..."

These voices float in and out, perhaps Ryan's inner monologue - i don't pretend to know, but one particular track talks about a relationship he was in over the last winter, and a girl he had met and who was messing with his emotions. This track is almost word for word a conversation Todd and I had w/ him one night last winter while drinking together at the Sin*a*gog... The more i listen the more this album strikes me as an unnervingly personal struggle Ryan somehow captured on tape.

"I'll hold your hair when you're puking, my dear,
I'll rub your back and clean it up."

There's nothing on JD - that comes as close to the warmth of Loventropy - and for the better, these tracks are Ryan dropping some of the veil of niceness, and giving a bit of a look into his confusion and anger. And it's also beautiful, the things he does with his voice are amazing, at times its so fragile and broken, and other times you'd swear he had Timberlake locked in the closet, not to mention his sense of melody and phrasing are meticulous, - completely unique.

"we have left the honeymoon suite and payperview porn is come to an end..."

And the instrumentation... at times lumbering synth beasts, tripping and falling over itself to die, other time smooth as synthetic motor oil electro lounge funk with over the top falsettos, backing vocals by a cast of Ryan's various personalities, complete with sexy little guitar licks and base runs - all the while, completely he's completely aware of what he's doing, not once in all this unsettling self exploration did i get the impression that this was traveling down the path of self consuming indulugence, every track feels like part of the whole, has some sort of catch to it, a rhythm or theme, a melodic hook, or simple little phrase. and not once does he let loose the reigns. I get the impression that this album was anguished over, in more ways than one.

I'd recommend picking up a copy, its 5 bucks and the best local album you'll pick up this year. But i guess, only if you enjoy a rewarding challenge - and being made to feel strangely awkward. Defiantly one of the best albums I've heard this year, period, and a perfect compliment to Loventropy. Can i also mention I'm more than a little stoned out on head cold medicine, and that yes, i know i changed tense about 20 times...

You can download the whole album on his website

but I'd recommend buying it.


the le duo said...

good review, cold-medicine-doped-up-Tanner! I've only heard the first 2 or 3 tracks but I agree- what an amazing talent! I'll sure miss him-

casey said...

What a talented fellow. Like this disc, too.

greg davis said...

where did he go?
whats the story?

ben said...

yes yes, the absolute perfect follow up to smash hit Loventropy. gonna miss ryan. gonna go see him tomorrow night after flatbread too...ben

Tmoore said...

I don't know the whole story, but from what i've gathered, he and his brother are moving into a house in the backwoods of arkansas they bought for 9 grand, and he's planning on doing alot of recording there. That and he's had about all he can take of burlington...

casey said...

Don't blame RP one bit. Arkansas isn't among my top states to flee to, but best of luck to him.