Yves Jarvis - Sundry Rock Song Stock Music Album Reviews

Yves Jarvis - Sundry Rock Song Stock Music Album Reviews
On his latest album, the Canadian psych-pop auteur expresses something deeply solitary in his music, a textured and overgrown world of the mind.

Across Sundry Rock Song Stock, Yves Jarvis’ voice rarely if ever appears alone. The 23-year-old psych-pop auteur almost always layers his vocal takes, appearing in double, triple, sextuple, nonuple, it’s hard to say. These are not immaculate choir-of-one harmonies in the mold of Brian Wilson, but slurry, unpredictable masses, drifting in and out of verbal intelligibility and strict meter, clinging like kudzu to the trunks and branches of the songs they populate. Despite their multifarious abundance and the breezy amiability of the musical settings, these voices do not give Sundry Rock Song Stock the feeling of a communal affair. Instead, they suggest that Jarvis—who performed every instrument on the album, mixed it, and painted the fractured self-portrait on the cover—is expressing something deeply solitary, an overgrown world of the mind that we are invited to visit for the length of 10 brief songs before moving on.
Sundry Rock Song Stock is presented as Jarvis’ third album, but the truth is a bit more complicated. Born Jean-Sebastian Audet and raised between Montreal and Calgary, he began street busking in his pre-teens, and releasing self-recorded albums under the name Un Blonde a few years later. On 2014’s Tenet, the first Un Blonde album, Audet sometimes channeled the icy post-punk guitar work of Calgary hometown heroes Women; by 2016’s Good Will Come to You, the last one, he’d arrived at a version of the sensibility he continues to explore today. (Judging by the positioning of Sundry Rock Song Stock as the third Yves Jarvis album, Audet now seems to view Good Will Come to You as the project’s debut.) The album applied post-punk’s deconstructive impulse to the warmhearted sounds of 1970s R&B, folk-rock, and gospel; one 30-second song consists of a single lyric—“I’ve been on my grind so long, it’s hard to know just who I am anymore”—delivered via the rich and mournful sound of a Black church choir, while a lo-fi recording of children playing runs in the background. Naturally, Jarvis sang all the parts himself.

Sundry Rock Song Stock packs a remarkable variety of sounds into its 33 minutes, opening with the percolating cymbals and chime-like Rhodes patterns of Miles Davis circa In a Silent Way and closing with a whispery doo-wop devotional, always dissolving into a pool of bioluminescent synth ambiance or erupting into a racket of clattering samples just as you expect it to gear up for the next chorus. Still, the album retains a sense of holism, refining the collagelike quality of Good Will Come to You and its somber follow-up, last year’s The Same but by Different Means, by foregrounding Jarvis’s softly strummed acoustic guitar and committing thoroughly to his singular vocal approach. At times, Sundry Rock Song Stock recalls the hallucinatory hymns of David Crosby’s If I Could Only Remember My Name or Animal Collective’s Sung Tongs, with the freewheeling ensemble nature of those albums replaced by Jarvis’ painterly top-down vision.

In Jarvis’ vocal arrangements, one version of a particular word or note might slightly outlast another that happens at essentially the same time, creating an uncanny sense of permeability at the borders of the whole. Occasionally, a line emerges with piercing clarity for a few words before plunging back into the tangled vines, as when Jarvis describes himself as “A victim of/the same old stuff/my father was” on “Victim.” His delivery is striking in its languor and offhandedness, a casual reminder of the cold reality that lies just beyond the daydream. “Notch in Your Belt” and “For Props” both seem to address people who align themselves with struggles against oppression for superficial reasons. “Your earned fortune makes you depraved/You can’t empathize or reciprocate/I’m sure your heart’s in the right place/But that’s the way it comes across, like you’re pandering for props,” he sings on the latter, the album’s biggest and brightest song.

Plenty of albums are described as dreamy for the way they drape otherwise conventional songs in pillowy textures and arrangements; Jarvis is the rare songwriter who also follows the logic of dreams within the structures of his compositions. “Epitome,” Sundry Rock Song Stock’s opening track, collapses on itself soon after Jarvis delivers one of the album’s most rousing melodies, never to be repeated. “In Every Mountain,” the following track, builds patiently toward a majestic windswept vista, then falls almost immediately back to the bottom of the hill, and begins the process again, and again, and then it’s over. “Emerald” subjects its own sweetly ascending melody to disorienting reharmonizations as it fades out, like viewing the tune through a kaleidoscope. The effect of these misdirections is often wondrous, but they can also give the sense of the album retreating from its own pleasures.

Jarvis has said that he sees himself as a producer primarily, and cited the influence of prog rock bands like Yes and King Crimson on Sundry Rock Song Stock, for the way their music is “not really songwriting,” but more like “a room that you can walk into and then out of.” If Sundry Rock Song Stock falls just short of being a masterwork, it’s because Jarvis occasionally seems to undermine his own songwriting ability—evident in the quiet compositional heft of “For Props,” “Victim,” and “Semula”—avoiding traditional development in favor of tugging you from one hallucinatory tableau to the next. But such a critique feels practically beside the point for an album so profusely inventive, so alive to the possibilities of sound itself.
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Yves Jarvis - Sundry Rock Song Stock Music Album Reviews Yves Jarvis - Sundry Rock Song Stock Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Tuesday, October 06, 2020 Rating:

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