BIOsonic and Wave founder Jon Black continues to go from strength to strength. His latest project is, uniquely, a sampler EP for the stylish Reiss menswear chain of stores. An unusual partnership perhaps but Black has previously supplied soundtracks both for the Reiss website and for their catwalk fashion shows, so a sampler album is really a natural progression.
Most store sampler albums (as anyone who has rummaged around trendy boutiques in Tokyo or New York will tell you) are compilations prepared by local DJs. Here, however, Black has written and produced six original tracks. The trademark Black touches are readily apparent. The jazz vibe is perhaps more jittery and cut-up than usual but the distinctive cult film soundtrack influences (Room 773 Jackdaw Hotel takes its inspiration from Coppola's brilliant 1974 film The Conversation - a recurring influence on Black's compositions) are ever present.
Those expecting either the mainstream dance or cheesy house that one tends to hear pumping out of most clothing stores will be disappointed, not to say probably perplexed. For this is a collection of sound fragments balancing unpredictably atop a few beats. But for fans of the atypical, you'd be hard-pressed to unearth a more experimental sound collage under the guise of a store sampler CD. Robert DeNiro picked up a copy of this in Reiss' New York store. So don't be surprised if the next time you hear Black it is at your local multiplex. 7/10
Rob Dyer (August 2005)
The chilled vibe of quality opener Inner Space x2 pretty much not only sums up this instrumental soundtrack album to life but is an almost archetypal Jon Black track. Blending Hammond and Rhodes keyboards with Dee Byrne's jazzy saxophone this is the perfect score to a balmy summer evening sipping wine with friends. But before you switch off and write this off as cheesy smooth jazz, stop to consider Black's ever present fascination with the possibilities of technology and his love of film soundtracks.
There's an intriguing cover of the main theme to Peter Yates' 1968 Steve McQueen thriller Bullitt that although worthwhile (especially the police siren intro and entry into the lead saxophone melody, this time performed by Enrico Garafolo, and the John Bonham-esque end groove) is significantly weakened by some oddly uneven mixing. The closing moments of Life with its repeating spoken voice sample prefigures Black's collaboration with film writer Mark Cousins on Wave's The Mother and The Whore four years later; and it's back to the movies again for Harry's Paranoid - a nod to the lead character in Coppola's The Conversation - complete with distracting multiple ringing telephones.
This is perhaps Black's most collaborative release, seeing him share performing and song-writing duties with no less than seven guest musicians (including original Wave partner Matt Williamson who provides the live percussion on Ocean Dome). It's only on one track, Dusk Falls, that sees Black going solo and perhaps it's no surprise that this is a standout piece as a result. It has a more overtly atmospheric electronic soundtrack styling - that other recurring Black trademark sound. Ghosts Floating in Stone draws on Indian chants and effortlessly blends them with a wonderfully relaxing acoustic guitar courtesy of BIOsonic collaborator Mark Bradley, and is never pompous as the title might suggest.
Final number Aries in Mars goes out there somewhat using whatever seemed appropriate at the time (including tongues in cheeks), pitting what sounds like improvised sax mixing strangely with Black's own Theremin. Sci-Fi Music is never predictable, always rewarding and although quite varied remains cleverly cohesive throughout. 7/10
Rob Dyer (June 2006)