Bobby August AKA Paul Jones is somewhat a musical and actual nomad. Bradford born, New Zealand raised and now living in Lithuania. He co-founded the superb and much missed Stolen Recordings yet. August then worked as a mastering engineer for Das Andere Selbst. He was also a member of the bands Cindytalk, Marimba and Cabbages.
Now, in a delightful turn of events (like the master becoming the apprentice… or something) he is released as an artist by one of his former label signees.
That is, of course, Serafina Steer, who co-founded Vitamin Concept Records with Oliver Marchant of RKB Vitesse.
The concept of ‘Perfection’ is intriguing too. It’s a collection of mostly instrumental iPhone 4 guitar recordings. Many were sent to friends “just to get in touch and say hello”.
The rudimentary recording style really lends itself to the songs, adding a light lo-fi distortion. August is clearly a gifted guitarist. The slide work on “Plastic wicker chairs”, “Then we start naming things” and “Perfection is nameless” is delicate and beautiful. The gentle reverb and background hiss adds a hazy, daydream quality.
Close your eyes and these could easily be recordings from a Mississippi porch in the 1930s.
August sings distantly on “Once named we meet limitations”. It recalls the softer, Delta blues influenced side of Graham Coxon (eg Crow Sit On Blood Tree), only the vocals are almost inaudible. “Perfection is lost” takes a more atmospheric approach. August’s voice is caked in delay. The guitar drifts serenely and we’re transported into something in the realm of Animal Collective’s collaboration with Vashti Bunyan.
August has an ear for a sweet melody, both in his singing and guitar playing.
“What was readily available and free to interpret” and “Now has staged references” shimmer at the high end. You could almost imagine August playing these virtually unnoticed in a bustling city centre. Those with keen ears stopped in their tracks.
Some tracks, such as “Daydreams” do have the feel of quick sketches whereas other feel like they have spilled directly from the heart. The plaintive tone of “I understand the need for words” is the perfect illustration of this.
There is a fairly consistent mood throughout the album, which is surprising. Particularly when you consider that the songs were not constructed as a longer form collection. The addition of the conversation piece “Let’s imagine what we want” is a curious diversion, but it works to break up space. It also adds impact to the sweet slide guitar pieces that follow and close the album.
As the back catalogue grows VCR is becoming a highly intriguing record label, seemingly prepared to take risks. ‘Perfection’ is an unexpected delight.