Time spent in Jim Johnston’s mercurial and beguiling musical world is never time wasted. We know by now that genres and other such journalistic short cuts aren’t really going to cut it, you could make a point that his music sits in a left-field, indie-rock world but as the songs move between dance beats, strange electronica, pop infectiousness, prog and so much more, even that becomes less easy to defend. And talking of lazy journalistic labels, let me get this out of the way now, let me say that there is indeed something Bowie-esque in the way that he cuts up sounds and genres, styles and ideas and weaves them through his own core sound. It’s a moniker that every blogger under the sun is currently applying to everything that doesn’t fit into the rigid conformities of the modern musical climate, but here it seems more deserved than most.
Chemical Time wanders between grating, scuzzy guitars and swaggering Madchester grooves, Avon Gorge plays with futuristic, spacious and skittering clubland vibes but connects those dots in ways that would confound even the most off the wall, seasoned dance head. (Is there such a thing as ambient rave? Maybe there should be.) Gamblers throws some industrial textures, rock muscle and hypnotic club culture into the same mixing pot and Your 100th Rock Bottom drives the album briefly though New Order’s early sonic territory.
The fact that I could have picked parallels from almost every contemporary musical era from Ministry and Caberet Voltaire up to modern industrial dance torch bearers such as Multiple Man, shows how unattached to genre or era this album is. It is an album that is both futuristic and primal, detached yet tribal, dance-fuelled but swaggers with rock and indie moves, it is progressive yet familiar, focused yet constantly shifting. It’s tantamount to Jim Johnston’s ability to really give you something to think about that, having started the review saying that genres and labels are no good to us here, I have don’t nothing but draw comparisons. There fact that it takes so many conflicting ones to even begin to set the scene should tell you everything that you need to know.