13 Oct 2014

Album Review: EDJ "EDJ"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

When the Fruit Bats closed up shop last year, frontman Eric D. Johnson was quick to clarify that he wasn't abandoning music itself, and "EDJ" is the album which that statement was foreshadowing.

Arriving on new Indie label Easy Sound (which will also be seeing new releases from Marianne Faithful, Vetiver and Isobel Campbell in the near future), "EDJ" isn't a huge stretch from the Fruit Bats sound in all honesty, but it's a much more intimate and personal affair, allowing the listener to get much closer to Johnson than they ever have in the past. This common trait of solo albums is often hamstrung by the feeling that the participant is holding their best material back for the band - a problem which Johnson does not have to contend with, with EDJ being his full time project now.

"EDJ" is a lovely sounding record. It's sparse and direct when it needs to be, but also has the capacity for explosions of mysterious sound to allow it a few peaks. Fans of Jim James' evocative solo work will find much to enjoy here, with it sharing a similar sense of reverence for West Coast classics of yesteryear, as well as a desire to assimilate and much that has come since then, giving it a very contemporary sound.
Johnson's vocals resonate throughout, and guest appearances from members of Vetiver and Califone enhance rather than distract.

Those not quite on the right wavelength may accuse "EDJ" of being a little samey, but once you're fully entrenched in its world, this uniformity makes a whole lot more sense. It doesn't sound like an album that's intended to have tracks lifted from it and isolated - it's an album that's intended to be played from beginning to end, with highlights like "A West County Girl" sounding even stronger when propped up in their natural environment.

Special mention too must be given to moody "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" evoking closer "The Mountains on Fire (In The Rearview)". It's gently peaking crescendoes certainly don't feel like a postscript of what has just preceded it, so perhaps it's a taster of what's to come?

Available on vinyl, and CD here.

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