Joy Follows Like a Shadow That Never Leaves – Rich Jacques (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Rich Jacques has long known, and consistently proven, that music can be more powerful, more perfectly poignant, when it is used sparingly. It’s all very well to load up the musical space with all manner of instruments, double-tracked and ramped up, over-driven and over-played, if that’s all you know, rock bands do it all the time. But what if you could achieve the same impact by adopting a totally opposite approach. What if you could find one lyrical line, one gently picked chord which would land just as heavily on the listeners consciousness? Impossible you say? If you think so then you need to listen to the wonderfully titled Joy Follows Like a Shadow That Never Leaves. Immediately!

It is enough to be able to write songs which engage and beguile, offer understated harmony and mellifluous melody, we have always known that Rich Jacques is able to do that. But here he does it with the most fleeting of musical brush strokes, the slightest of sonic building blocks, the most amazing spacial awareness. (It also has to be a sign that when absent-mindedly typing that last word it auto-corrected to awesomeness. Just saying!) And the songs still land impressively for all their gossamer structure and delicate forms.

Oblivion, as we have heard before, is a gorgeous array of minimal vocals spread over a translucent array of chiming and charming music, as much built from lingering suspense and unspoken thoughts in the face of the impending apocalypse as of any actual musical weight. Yet it conveys the idea of a person’s last thoughts before oblivion more than any amount of musical posturing and preening power-chordage ever could.

Clear Blue Skies moves these core, gorgeous indie sounds into purer folk territory, and Where Is Home feels like dance music boiled down to an essential, ghost-like groove, a pencil sketch of creative intent leaving the mind, and in this case the ear, to fill in the purposefully positioned space. The title track seems to draw all aspects of the album neatly together, splicing folk forces with indie cool, digital creations with acoustic traditions, precisely placed musical punctuation with transient hazes, intimate, whisper in the ear vocals with distant, disembodied, drifting on the wind harmonies. The perfect swan song for a glorious album.

Some people talk about using the studio as an instrument. I’m not really sure what that means and I suspect, if pressed, neither do they. What I do know though is Rich Jacques has the ability to use space as an instrument. Why crank up the guitar or clatter away on the drum kit when you can create so much more interesting forms by wrapping the merest, yet most perfectly placed, slivers of music around pockets of atmosphere, anticipation and intrigue? Why indeed?

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