(Photo Credit: Amy Silver)
Advance Review - Julio Nickels - Feeling Fickle
Feeling Fickle is the debut album from guitarist Jason Orlovich, who uses the moniker Julio Nickels as a way to express a new outlook that was driven through collaborative work. Prepare yourself for a bit of genre bending when it comes to Julio Nickels and Feeling Fickle. According to Orlovich, all of the tracks started out as an acoustic representation of what it could be. Then, Orlovich takes liberties with his sound sources, which means most of what you are hearing was probably not intended for music at all. With the exception of some clean and moderately-distorted slow strums on guitar, a great deal of the experience comes from digital staging and imaging, phase and frequency shifting, and well-calculated sustain and note patterning. When it comes to abstract musical expression, Orlovich takes risk and doesn't ask permission. With that being said, come at the album with a critical ear. Just remember that the standards are a little bit changed and from one song to the next, you could be applying standards and principles (unintentionally) of genres that Orlovich never intended to follow. Treat every sound you hear as a part of the collective rather than an individual showcase. Throw out the rulebook and reflect on how the music affects you. The lyrics themselves read as though they could be in any good song, and the vocal prose is consistent and not overreaching. This means you occasionally have to lean in to hear those powerful words, but this is better than overpowering vocals that force you to ignore the melody.
For the purposes of our listen, this initially felt a bit like an intro track. There was definitely a sense of science fiction that continues to built from the slow reoccurring bass notes. Vocals intermingle between spoken word and sing-song, drawing comparison to the ole’ Jimmy Morrison drunk-off-his-a$$-recordings but in the same way that beyond what seemed like ramblings was actually poetic. As the song continues, the beats stay minimalistic, but develop full range with synths. The beauty of the song almost comes from enjoying the cadence between the notes. Focusing on when each begins and when each ends. At points, we can get restless as Orlovich takes his time when developing a peak in the music. You can hear the interesting layering of sound with the vocal buried notes beneath the rest of the music at times, as if we are experiencing some very convincing digital spacing. This leaves us hoping it was actually some old school analog technique separating the vocals, but we weren't there so we will have to imagine for now.
League of Nations
Pairing beat notes that do not seems to enjoy the company of one another is another "Julio Nickels" technique that adds to the thrill. This leaves us anticipating what possible musical key could accommodate those notes, but we have to wait until Orlovich gives us context. The melody is slow and progressive, adding pieces without subtracting. The “lead” melody is more of mashed up radio static and various intense frequencies that sound as though they are "clipping," or maxing out the frequencies of our devices. This gives us the impression that our speakers are reaching their limits, when it’s actually quite an interesting sound effect. Listening as this is occurring almost feels as though Orlovich is controlling the sound outside of the realms in which he has control, or pushing frequencies that require a certain setup. This could be a sticking point seeing as how I originally thought my speakers were blown as a result, so many could have mixed emotions. Once those noise spikes are subdued and intermingled into the beat later, it creates a soothing, warm atmosphere. It's almost as though Orlovich has to dance each sound in front of you before later showing how it can fit within the scheme.
If "League of Nations" made you feel a bit uncertain by its beginning, "Local Support" should have you ready to scream...until Orlovich brings it all together. Once the bass line begins to deviate from the 1-2 shift, it can become quite balanced and drives the rest of the song. Orlovich uses heavily chorused and reverb effects to go with the intentionally distorted slow guitar strums. In the best way I can describe it, the silence between the notes sound as calculated as the notes themselves. This is the first single to the album and while it doesn’t exactly have the traditional flow and pedigree of an album single, it is the closest you’re going to that traditional chart song from Julio Nickels.
Nomads in the Light
The track opens with guitar strums, which are similar to "Local Support," but use less distortion. One welcoming consistent is the sparing usage of these guitar strums. This is a brilliant way to include a staple instrument but in a different way. I consider the strums to be that of compliments, such as in larger band setups, rather than the focal point. Sustain is important in how this presents itself as well. If these notes simply trailed before a short death, the song would be left flat, whereas what actually happens is the notes trail on while a new note takes over. The parts where the song picks up and you hear the reverberating frequencies reminds us of old Zeppelin. Orlovich's voice is a bit more soft spoken with fewer peaks and valleys in his range, similar to Ben Gibbard when he’s clocking in for The Postal Service. We loved this track.
Delivers a super trippy sound. Experimental to the max with ominous layered beats that come at you from all angles, especially with headphones on. The different phase shifts throughout the song also help to develop from the sound. Often, we can find this abused to the point the song is difficult to listen to (some minor examples so far in this very album), but not in this track. The harmonizing vocals sound almost in lullaby as the music surrounds you in various frequency pressures. This is used as if it were an instrument itself, which is very interesting to experience. I can’t imagine what this would be like with a headset with immersive haptic response or a large home theater system pushing full power.
Build Me a Mystery
This track stars with various sounds that remind us of phone notifications or short horn blasts that come out of nowhere to get this track going. After the previous track ended so subtly, this one opens from dead silence to remind you there is still something playing. It’s kind of annoying and a tease at first with how slow it develops, but other sounds come into the fold as well. It’s as if Orlovich found an old hard drive full of sound effects and wanted to see what they would do in full symphony. At 1:28, a sequence that sounds as if the listener is about to be sucked into space starts in with pressures and shifting going everywhere. This continues with various fluttering noises and effects throughout. Only in their collective would they sound like anything relating to music. This changes at the 2:20 mark when the vocals come in. Phase shifting is heavy, repetitive, but not predictable. You do not ever get the sense that any of the frequencies are totally identical. Some seeming shorter in duration while others approach uncomfortable volume levels, which is probably why we noticed it in the first place. You have to focus to hear the vocals at this point, which have been buried under the bass frequencies coming from each side.
The Grace Notes
The song title alone had us excited. This track goes through a similar beat development process as the rest, but it happens a little faster in "The Grace Notes." By the first minute, the vocals and the majority of the beat is there. We really enjoy the lyrics, vocal delivery, and overall product from this track. As mentioned before, none of the noises you’re hearing in this track sound like they belong in music, but together, they make music. This is one of the shorter tracks, much to our chagrin, because this track is great. We keep waiting for some giant drum beat to come in and take over, which doesn’t happen. Admittedly, it’s just unspent motivation Orlovich earned from the beginning of this track. It doesn’t take off like it seems it's going to, but that wouldn’t be very graceful, right?
They Found Me Here
The bass line carries this track throughout. There are no abrupt changes to the bass as you barely feel the transition between notes, as if you’re driving some super fancy car that you can’t feel shift gears. The notes move and flow without the abrupt feeling of a pluck or transition, which is quite soothing. This one keeps a pretty even keel throughout.
The album closer is a bit more of the same but with frequencies that remind us of suspenseful old movies. The vocals are hard to hear, but it seems this is a mere formality to give the opportunity for the vocal notes to intermingle with the frequencies. Did he really just say, “I watched some guy drink salsa straight?” (Hint: Yes, he did) The blaring horns give us a "Citizen Kane" vibe that also creates a bit of suspenseful intrigue. The album goes out the way it came. Slowly wearing down until only certain pulses are left.
While this album was not exactly in the realm of personal tastes for this reviewer, we can appreciate the liberties and experimentation that took place in creating this album. This is one of the times most folks will listen and hear something they are not used to and they have to find out how comfortable they are with that. Give it a shot.
Alt Revue Rating 3.75/5