Sonic Jesus – “Grace” (2017)

A few months back I got an email from Fuzz Club about some new releases they had in the pipeline, and for whatever reason Sonic Jesus caught my eye. Maybe it was the name. Maybe it was the architectural photo that adorned the cover of their new album Grace, which looked exactly like the kind of picture I like to take. Maybe it was the whiskey. I don’t know. But regardless, a few minutes later I received my email receipt for Grace and a couple of Sonic Jesus’ earlier albums (that was definitely due to the whiskey) and patiently waited for them to arrive..

Italian musician Tiziano Veronese has performed under the name Sonic Jesus since 2012, releasing a handful of singles, an EP, and the 2015 double album Neither Virtue Nor Anger. Grace is his second full-length effort, which came out in March in advance of a 14-show tour of the Mediterranean region. I debated as to which Sonic Jesus record to listen to first, but eventually decided I was more interested in hearing where Veronese is at today so I could hear Grace with fresh ears before heading into the back catalog.

What struck me most during my first listen to Grace was the vocals, which have a lo-fi and echoey quality about them, dripping with a feeling that isn’t quite depression but more resignation, the sense that life being a struggle is inevitable, that gloom is a foregone conclusion. It’s a vibe that fits the music well, a moody psych that flows like thick, black velvet curtains, surrounding and muffling everything around you. It’s a bit more on the drone-y side of psych than the more in-your-face sound of say Singapore Sling, still driving but in a slower more plodding way. The density and blending of the music makes it difficult to focus in on the individual elements, but when I’m able to do so it is the bass that carries most of the songs, pushing them forward and signaling mood changes, particularly on “Modern Model” and “No Way”.

The B side ups the tempo a bit. “Space Heels” is a transitional track that seems to try to find the way before leading into the almost upbeat “Outdoor” with it’s quick, snappy bass, brief 80s style synth interlude, and a guitar that hangs out in the higher range to pull the vocals up with it. By the time we get to “Funeral Party” we’ve gone full-on old school post-punk, the vocals transitioning from resignation to insistence, demanding that you listen to them instead of letting them blend with the rest of the sonics. It’s probably my favorite track on Grace.

All in all Grace is an interesting album. I like that Sonic Jesus didn’t get stuck in a rut and mixed it up a bit as the record progressed, though I’d have liked to have heard a few tracks with less effects-laden vocals to break things up a bit more. That being said, I’m looking forward to checking out the self-titled 2012 EP and Neither Virtue Nor Anger to get a sense of how Sonic Jesus has progressed. More to come!