Published Feb 26, 2019Intimate, isolating, scattered and collected. These contradictions shape the experimental world that Yves Jarvis calmly inhabits and confidently explores on The Same But By Different Means.
Montreal's lo-fi maestro, formerly known as Un Blonde, returns with another lengthy tracklist of expressive soundscapes where guitars are wide-ranging in technique; arrangements are rich in melody; keys gently bounce around jazz chords; and percussion skips in and out of bars, sounding more like tumbling accents than rhythmic maps. Much like his previous work, instrumentation is sparse. Sustained notes serve as cushions that either fill those gaps of instrumental rest or mellow the spritely jives of his wide-ranging idiosyncrasies. No matter the tempo, it's all rather soothing.
Most of the tracks allow room to breathe before going into a freefall decent of multi-influenced experimentation. Often times it's a rather subtle marriage of jazz and hip-hop ("That Don't Make It So"), gospel and funk ("Time and Place"), soul and folk ("Goodbye Reason, Goodbye Rhyme").
With this comes an atmosphere that's hard to escape — not that you'd want to. When he sings— often in multiple layers— there's a warmth in his voice. You could say there's a calmness to it all. He isn't forcing us to listen, but the invitation is there. Though that in itself is both a blessing and a curse.
The biggest setback this record faces is losing quality to quantity. Most of these 22 tracks are quite interlude-ish. While sometimes the context is clear, several tracks find the young artist and his ensemble aimlessly jamming without resolution. It reminds me of Sufjan Stevens' Illinois, which placed single-worthy songs amongst a slew of 20-second transition blips and reprises. It's taken a long time for those little moments to gain contextual recognition beyond quirk and filler, and I'm sure The Same But By Different Means will face the same fate.
There are, of course, plenty of aspects to this album people will enjoy, provided you're patient enough to wait for them, as this album is probably best consumed in full. I'm sure, despite my absentminded tendencies, those with the appropriate attention span will agree: complexity rarely sounds this simple, and that's a very good thing. (Flemish Eye)