All artwork courtesy of James Pants
I must confess, advice I have been a bit over focused on just one genre of music recently; pretty much every track that I have downloaded, gig that I have been to and festival that I have attended has been of the alt:folk variety. If it doesn’t have a banjo or mandolin, it hasn’t shown up on my radar. So what a refreshing change to listen to James Pants, the eponymously titled album by James Pants, a noisy, feral, snarling beast series of tracks that would probably rip a banjo to shreds in ten paces if it tried to sneak into the studio and join in the melee.
This album gives us a telling insight into the workings of James’ mad professor mind, where musical fusions are created with a lightness of hand, and somehow, all the ingredients seem to come together seamlessly. Given that James blends electro, synth experiments, garage rock, a soupçon of shoegaze and a touch of dream pop, it all could have ended terribly, but somehow the tracks glide smoothly along; almost as if the musical DNA of the above styles was always destined to be mashed up.
It’s also telling that James’ most recent abode has been Cologne, Germany. The album has an unmistakeable electro/experimental and minimalist influences that puts the listener in mind of Kraftwerk. I had thought that Kraut rock is kraut rock, but apparently, there is a further genre of German rock that mixes traditional hard rock with dance-like keyboard parts called Neue Deutsche Härte (NDH): ‘New German Hardness’ (there you go, your fact for the day) and this album reminds me a little bit of this (but without the NDH Satanic imagery). Pleasingly, there is a beating heart beneath the shiny, futuristic contours of this album. Newly released single “Clouds Over The Pacific” is soft and fuzzy and layers delicate female harmonies over a nimble plucking of a guitar string ( or could be a harp), which in turn is layered over a wall of synth sound. James Pants is kind of loopy (and that’s the album I’m talking about, not the man), but I like it. Songs like These Girls, Alone and A Little Bit Closer are the type of tracks that give you a second wind when you hear them in a club (or field) at 2am and go crazy to the beats that sound like they have a bolt of electricity running through them.
If you need a clue as to how a collusion of styles and genres has been weaved together so artfully with ne’er a foot out of step, look no further to the unconventional life of its creator. James is the son of two Presbyterian ministers from an American backwater called Spokane, and his non-conformist journey has taken him from being a teenage DJ for a black nationalist rap group to a multi-instrumentalist with fans and collaborators ranging from Flying Lotus, Zane Lowe, Erol Alkan and XL’s new teen hip-hop internet sensation Tyler The Creator. His backround gives me a further understanding of this album. Only a man who can straddle as many different worlds and cultures as he does – and be wholeheartedly accepted – could make an album as diverse as this without losing any authenticity.
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