J. Laser ep
J. Laser is the stage name of former M83 guitarist, Jordan Lawlor. M83 are kind of a big deal, having exploded out of France in the early 00s, bringing this dreamy, synthy, new wavy terror pop sound to the masses. Lawlor eventually joined up once M83 relocated to LA. M83 have gone onto great heights since I was obsessed with them back in the 00s, particularly 2005’s Before the Dawn Heals Us, garnering a Grammy nomination for their 2011 album, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. As for Lawlor, here he steps up from behind the main man of M83, Antony Gonzalez, and takes centre state himself.
Of course he is influenced by M83, but he’s also his own man. J. Laser is built up around pulsing, dreamy synth riffs and walls of sound, mixing in a collection of soundscapes that verge from that dreamy, trippy, floating sound to krautrock beats.
The ep opens with the dreamscape of ‘Orpheus,’ which arises out of Lawlor’s exploration of the Ancient Greek story of Orpheus and Eurydice, and marrying that to a sampling system based upon a collection of old dusty 45s, harvested from a record store, brought back to his studio, and the needly dropped at random, he had himself a track. I particularly love how he found the harp in this track, the serendipitous nature of dropping the needle at random on the first 45 and hearing it is amazing.
The second track, ‘Waves & Blades’ is also the first single, and is this towering beauty of a track. Lawlor has taken the harmonic feedback of a stack of modular synths, married them to the krautrock, and provided an urgent critique of our dystopia and environmental meltdown. Happy stuff. I love how Lawlor described this track:
This track started the first day at a studio where they had this modular synthesizer the size of a small truck, we spent the entire day patching and plugging it’s wires until this massive, guttural riff came sputtering out of the synth that sounded like it was summoned from the subterranean depths of the earth! That sound inspired me to write a song around the concept of sharpening your inner truth and intention like a blade to cut through all of the oppressive algorithmic noise and fodder that’s left us all feeling so small in this strange new era we’ve found ourselves in.
‘Waves & Blades’ then bleeds into the synth-driven funk of ‘Sunshine Days,’ which counters the dystopia of our world with the imagined utopia of some alien world. I am always interested at how such happy music comes out of depression, and Lawlor reports this is one of those instances, emerging out of a ‘saccharine Doris Day jingle’ he sang to himself, sarcastically, as everything came crashing down around him. The results, largely due to that P-Funk beat, are both sunny and glorious.
‘Blood Moon’ wobbles a bit at the start, I was worried we were going to veer into some emo sound c. 2008, as Lawlor sings to his baby, but I shouldn’t have worried. Lawlor oozes more talent in his little finger than most emo artists had in their entire band, and this erupts into this anthemic, synth-based track, complete with a bass solo that sounds like it was lifted from Peter Gabriel.
This stunning new ep ends with ‘Saturn’s Return,’ as we continue our tour of celestial bodies. Starting off with a synthesized guitar, or maybe just a synth, it’s hard to tell, the track slowly, very slowly builds as an instrumental, calling to mind the soundtrack from 2001: A Space Odyssey, the track is a return to a dystopic, or maybe utopic, future space world, one imagined in the 1960s. I also think of Wolf Parade’s track ‘Julia’ from their brilliant Expo 86, where the Soviet cosmonaut is sent adrift in space after a switched is flipped at mission control, and the hero of the song is left 25 million miles from his comfortable home, in the cold, cold reaches of space. In some way, ‘Saturn’s Return’ sounds like the sequel to that track, as his spaceship careens off into the void, following Major Tom, who passed that way some 30 years earlier.
J. Laser is an incredible début, and I keenly look forward to new music from this project. J. Laser is out this coming Friday.