Memphis has a strangely disjointed music scene these days, or at least as it seems to me — but I am a native Memphian and a relative outsider at times, even in my own town. But in spite of this, Memphis has seen me through, as John Roderick once told me, “many incarnations of my id”. In this one, I’ve discovered Fast Planet, and I could not be more impressed.
From the fallout of a band I long-championed & at times begged to come back known as This Is Goodbye (they did come back briefly last year), the performers — Brandon Herrington, Landon Moore, Wil Deshazo and Jared Rawlinson — were tired of doing the same thing all the time. They all moved around, got girlfriends or wives, found day jobs and moved into other phases of their lives. At some point, frustrated with being caught in the “rock bubble” & inspired by Thom Yorke’s solo outings and electronic meanderings, they made a decision: they were going to learn how to play electronic music. One bought Ableton, another bought Logic, and the rest took care of itself.
Over the course of the last year, they’ve been creating the songs which appear on the soon-to-be-released debut Jes, and probably (according to Landon) threw away twice as many as actually appear on the record. What was left behind as the layers stripped away is a harmonic convergence of orchestrated pieces filled with an elegiac ambience. The 9-song cycle contains patently beautiful, cavernous and majestic electronic songs informed by an intricate flirtation with trip hop, dubstep and ambient.
The songs on Jes are filled with the kind of genuine heart that comes from a certain kind of group dynamic, an equanimity that transcends the music itself. Reminiscent of Telefon Tel Aviv, James Blake, Thom Yorke and Bon Iver, it is a revealing collection of songs, a record so fluidly masterful that one can’t help but express surprise that it comes from a city like Memphis, known for Big Star, Al Green, Three 6 Mafia, The Oblivians and Jay Reatard. Put in the simplest terms, Jes is the kind of record that requires an artist to know something about the world in order to convey its themes without being dreary and mournful. There is redemption in the songs, joy in the heartbreak, and a stunning ushering in of a sound that will come to influence people here for a long time to come.
Produced by the band themselves and mastered by Brad Black, Jes has the necessary weight of an important record, a record dealing with heavy themes about love and mortality, growing up and becoming who we are as people, the greetings and farewells to those we love and lose. It lacks any pretense as it explores these gifted musicians’ journey through their own learning curve. Not limited to a regional appeal, Jes is not merely one of the best Memphis records of 2012; it is one of the best records of 2012 anywhere.