From his early days holding the sticks and cadence of The Comas, John Harrison has grown into a consummate veteran of the N.C. scene. For over a decade now, he has helmed the lush and loud rock outfit North Elementary while helping hold the reins of Potluck Foundation, a far reaching collective of musicians who consistently turn out quality releases from a myriad of artists. More recently, Jphono1 has been a solo outlet for John that he uses to explore the quieter side of his sonic life and his passion for vivid, surreal visual arts through the medium of screen-printing. Starting with his debut record “Living is Easy” and continuing on through a string of singles, EP’s, the outstanding sophomore album “Know Your Clouds”, and the most recent electrifying offering “Time in the Chevron”, Jphono1 has been a consistent vehicle for John’s overflowing output.
Jphono1’s debut album “Living is Easy” is a head trip of nine songs that pull together sounds both modern and traditional. With a deft ear for composition, John integrates the disparate into something that feels familiar. A banjo porch picnic seamlessly morphs into an Indian raga. Pop melodies shift from major to minor with a discordant and melancholic urge to move on, tempered by a need to settle. These songs are anchored by acoustic guitar melodies and richly layered vocals. There’s magic in the well placed field recordings of chirping birds and ticking clocks. John’s back-porch banjo, guitar, and harmonica are right at home alongside spacey programmed beats, synthesized strings, and organs. The resulting sonic blend is uncanny.
On his sophomore release "Know Your Clouds" John began to explore new elements in sounds and arrangements. The introduction of drums, piano, and fuzzed out electric guitars help to ground many of the songs without stitching up their frayed edges. Fragments of electronics, acoustic guitars, and keys join what at first resemble straight-forward compositions, only to break apart into an acid induced haze. “Know Your Clouds” attempts to capture the looser, more experimental feel of a Jphono1 show. The tracks start to stretch past three and a half-minute pop confines into instrumental explorations. Melodies twist and turn through loping loops where they either dissolve into the ether as on “Auto-Sleeper”, or land safely back at home as on “Don’t Freak Out”. Whatever the case, these longer songs began to hint at the future direction of Jphono1.
While earlier records were a way for John to stretch his multi-instrumentalist muscles by crafting atmospheric acoustic-tinged songs, the most recent electrified release, “Time in the Chevron”, is a departure from what came before. The most notable difference is the appearance of a full band. This is the mark of a seasoned musician; knowing you could do something alone, but bringing in others because you believe they will make it better. With trusty friends by his side, John illuminates and elucidates with succinct riffs and rhythms that lend a krauty component to an otherwise wholly American vibe. While Jphono1 songs have often worn the mark of alternate tunings that travel through open string drones like visitors passing briefly by unknown towns, the tracks that round out “Time in the Chevron” don’t pass through so much as they thoroughly explore. These songs take their time living in the groove. Unconventional song structures unravel to reveal verses ruminating on subjects as deep and vast as cosmic and geologic impermanence, or as domestic and down to earth as an afternoon at home. Despite the wide ranging subject matter, this is perhaps the most cohesive record of the Jphono1 catalog. Sonic themes recur and morph throughout each composition. It’s clear that while the destination is part of the parcel, it’s the discovery that Jphono1 is down with.