Album Review by Roy Peak
Homemade Modern Day Folk With No Rules
J. Moss, he who is The Modern Folk incarnate, believes in recording a song at the moment, in the moment, with whatever recording device is handy, with whatever instruments are available. Getting it down is the most important part. Moss also believes in releasing his material on mediums such as cassette and downloadable mp3 for easy portability. He may be old school in many ways, but he's as forward thinking in his craft as the best of them out there.
Take his most recent release of songs, Modern Folk 666, as an example. To my ears this collection of his songs contains a mix of genres and sounds as disparate as they are bold. In Moss' world, Moondog, field recordings, Public Image, Ltd., tender and improvised acoustic folk instrumentals, Gorillaz, hip hop beats, Kanye West, crafty originals, psychedelic guitar, and re-imagined public domain classics live together side by side, as if genre-listic boundaries do not exist. And Moss is right: These boundaries shouldn't exist. You want to mix hip hop and a field recording with post punk bass and noisy percussion? Go right ahead. Use whatever you want to make it work. Oh, and feel free to apply generous amounts of Auto-Tune. Why not? After all, it's been around for quite a while now. And Moss uses it hip hop style, not the way so many country and pop artists use it nowadays—to hit the notes they can't come close to—but rather as a psychedelic effect much like one would use delay or chorus or distortion. To strangle the vocal. To add interest, to change it from its original intent. J. Moss uses Auto-Tune to bend the vocal to his will.
It's hard to pick a favorite tune out of these as they're all of interest, but my mind keeps coming back to the folk ballad "Peggy-O" which is redone here as a country barroom send-up with the Auto-Tune still there but dialed back slightly, giving the vocals a ghostly sound which permeates and adds to the doomed romance in the story.
To get the full effect of these songs, listen to the album from start to finish. This album and its songs flow like a jungle river, twisting back on itself, becoming claustrophobic and dark, then opening up into a beautiful field of daylight before it changes again, into something you've never heard before, mysterious, wonderful, honest. Gaze into the waters as you float by, it's all there, looking back at you, and knows you may never be this free again.