JAMES Vincent McMorrow first appeared on Gazette Music’s radar when he appeared as a guest vocalist on the Japanese Popstars’ breakout album, Controlling Your Allegiance.
He contributed a magnificent vocal to Shells Of Silver, lending the track his impeccable voice for a sleek and memorable mid-paced effort from the Derry dance directors.
The extent to which that stripped-back track has influenced his approach on his second album, Post Tropical, is up for debate, but it is clear that the mood paintings of the likes of Bon Iver and Sigur Ros were on the playlist as McMorrow prepared this new set of songs.
According to the pre-release information from JVM’s camp, the record was recorded on a pecan farm a mile from the Mexican border, and was a conscious effort on the part of the singer-songwriter to put distance between how he was first perceived and the sounds in his head.
“I’m so proud of that album, but I never longed to be a guy with a guitar. You play these songs live as best you can, and suddenly you’re a folk musician, but the texture of this record is completely different. This is the kind of stuff that makes sense to me.”
Appearing in Dublin recently in no more appropriate a setting than the National Concert Hall, the glacial textures of the new record were set free in a space suited to their grandeur, and make perfect sense.
McMorrow is set to take the new record to audiences over the US and Canada over the coming months – a move that’s sure to put him on a path to even greater acclaim and public recognition.
Post Tropical, like the location where it was recorded, is a very long way away from the place JVM inhabited when he released Early In The Morning in 2011.
This is about as far away from folk as you can possibly get; the guitar having been all but entirely replaced by a repertoire of horns and synthesised strings, live drums by electronic beats, and a spirit that evokes warm slow evenings as the sun falls just under the horizon.
Even when a guitar does appear, as on Repeating, it is to create a texture and harp-like motif that floats in mid-air as JVM invokes things he hardly knew, and the instruments gallop and gather pace around him with purpose and delicacy, which breaks through on the final chorus.
With a voice that literally soars and calls to the heavens, JVM hits some impressive falsetto heights here.
You might not be able to decipher every lyric on the first listen, but the devotion that the vocals herald here seeps into every corner of every song on this sophomore release.
There is a depth to the songs that demands repeated visits, seeking out their core and quirks, and making more and more sense of the high voices and low frequencies that seep out of every track and take root in your head and heart.
JVM is undoubtedly set for an international success, and with Justin Vernon sidelining Bon Iver for the moment, this is the time for JVM to take that template and make it his own, adding his sense of drama and understatement to create a winning formula.