If 2012’s Voyage of Oblivion mapped out a strange, detached and unsettling musical landscape, even that didn’t quite suggest the twisted grandeur and off kilter meanderings that the follow up album delivers.
Generic labels are largely useless here as all contemporary styles are put to new uses but the ever-shifting nature of the album means that it doesn’t sit in any one genre for too long. Yes, alt-rock, psychedelia and post-punk may provide the more visible backdrop but the sound of Bristol’s recent musical past (and indeed Johnston’s own with Monk and Canatella) are also on show. Tribal dance beats and trippy electronica flavours blends with the straighter rock drives and angular indie influences, there is even an often-schizophrenic saxophone wandering through like a crazed jazz pied piper.
If Voyage… was the sound of blues and psychedelia meeting in a cold, clinical embrace in a disused dockside somewhere along the Severn Estuary, this is the sound of David Bowie scoring the bleak worlds of Bret Easton Ellis’ novels and Damien Moran’s hypnotic narrative that threads it’s way between, around and through the songs immediately puts you in mind of Diamond Dogs spoken opening salvo.
I’m not saying that I fully understand the overall concept of the narrative, I’m sure it is an album that reveals its secrets through multiple re-visits, but it is not easy to ignore the fleeting references to backstreet horrors, gratuitous violence and the brooding undercurrents that pour from this open wound of an album.
After All The Wishing really sees Jim Johnston up his game and even after the strange beauty of his previous solo outing he has again delivered something both weird and intoxicating, dangerously attractive and unlike anything you have heard before. In the right light it would be easy to convince yourself that this is actually a long lost album from Bowie’s Berlin years and there are not many albums that you can say that about.