New Jersey’s Jai Agnish has been strangely silent as of late. His debut release, Automata, turned more than a few heads a couple years back with its fusion of catchy melodies, programmed loops, sampled sounds, and Agnish’s wavering vocals. Well, the “folk singer from the future” is finally back in the game, although it should be pointed out that his cuts on this split disc were actually laid to tape before he went to work on Automata.
That being the case, it’s no surprise these recordings are a little rawer than his full-length, both in terms of arrangements and production, and occasionally feel slightly unfinished. There’s still plenty to like about Agnish’s six cuts, however, as the man’s peculiar vision has obviously been in full effect right from the beginning. All of the elements that made Automata such an intriguing debut are also on display here.
Agnish knows his way around clever phrases and deceptively simple melodies, and his use of vintage electronics and found sounds manages to be both kitschy and very effective. Word is that his release of these cuts was meant to tide people over until the release of his next disc of new material and here’s hoping that comes soon.
Israel’s Adam Lee Rosenfield, aka Gospel Zombie, opts for the lo-fi approach to his half of the split and we’re talking Mountain Goats sort of lo-fi here — all buzz and room echo with the mistakes left in. The lo-fi game is a tough one to pull off, especially now that it’s losing the novelty factor. What you gain in intimacy with the recording you lose in a lack of sonic range. The simple fact that the recording just doesn’t sound very good means the songs themselves have got to be pretty exceptional to carry it off.
Rosenfeld has flashes where he’s able to carry things off — “The Madness of Sir Adam” and “Missionary Trip to Alaska” are both solid efforts — but ultimately his songs are crushed by the grainy recording. Too bad, because what you can make out shows that the man’s got some skill as a writer and arranger. It just takes way too much effort to dig the meat of his work out of the recording haze.
Written by Chris Brown.