Despite feeling disillusioned, drained, and disconnected after an intense year of
touring, Brooklyn-based recording artist Jesse Marchant, a.k.a. JBM, felt an
insatiable need quietly gestating. After a much needed break, he relocated to a
remote cabin in the Catskills and started the long process of writing and recording Stray Ashes, his followup to 2010's Not Even in July. Like a twilight journey
through canyons, with noctilucent clouds on the horizon, these songs flow with
refined grace and raw force.
Rather than starting with an acoustic guitar and vocals, Marchant experimented
with drums and loops of electric guitar melodies. As the winter progressed, he
continued this process until the song structures emerged. To record he
relocated to a large log house next to a frozen lake inhabited by hundreds of
geese in upstate New York, where he recorded everything but the vocals. He
then moved to the city temporarily where he wandered the streets listening to the
instrumentals and writing lyrics.
Next, John Congleton joined the project for additional recording and mixing.
Congleton's contributions help to define a sonic space throughout Stray Ashes
that perfectly cradles Jesse's earnest vocals, as do the additional performances
of McKenzie Smith (of Midlake, Drums), and Macey Taylor (of A.A. Bondy, Bass)
on several tracks, which were recorded by Congleton in his Texas studio. The
gauzy sonic blanket Marchant and Congleton have created provides a foundation for the mysterious collection of songs on Stray Ashes. We don't have to fully
understand them to be moved by these shining beacons guiding us through a
mellifluous fog. Propelled by Marchant's voice, songs like "Winter Ghosts" and
"Keeping Up" seem to effortlessly fill the room with an addictive somber haze,
while Marchant seems to implore us to return to something true and meaningful
on other standouts like "Ferry" and "Only Now".