Soundtrack to an American Giallo

by Jonathan Fraser

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about

This is a double album that conceptually plays out like a soundtrack to a giallo film, or you can listen to it as just a regular album. Was recorded in 2 weeks. Themes and moods revolve around love, loss, hope, frustration, God, and distaste for humanity and society. Beauty and ugly are met here and they cross. You'll hear everything from acoustic folk to post-rock to noise to even punk. And the final track is an improvised endurance round that rewards the listener if they are to make it to the end.

Part I: Tracks 1-8
Part II: Tracks 7-15

A big thanks to Isaac for taking time out of your day to write for this album, Jan for taking time out of your day mastering this; you did a great job, Chris Hartt, Alexandra Castle, Jesse Hiatt, and Rimma Trukhina, Richard for letting me borrow your keyboard because mine sucked. My mother and aunt for supporting me over the years, my friends and fellow musicians.

DEADSHOT ZINE:
"Melancholy is perhaps one of the most intricate, vast and profound feelings that I know of; and ironically as debilitating as it can get for one, there’s no denying how beautiful it still manages to be somehow (well, atleast that’s what I believe). Being so intense and complicated, it often becomes difficult to capture this very feeling in any form of art. Yet, a lot of people have done that and after witnessing each piece of art, be it Apollonian or Dionysian, I have only added more adjectives to my definition of ‘melancholy’. Like the last time, I asked our big guy (Abhiraj Das Ghosh, Rossogolla Photography) to capture melancholia with his lens, and I found his interpretations to be very different from my expectations, yet impressive nonetheless.

Jonathan Fraser’s solo project is a rather mindful display of that feeling of melancholy; quite simple and minimal, yet impactful in its own way. I mean a guy with just a guitar and some synth effects has dared to release albums which stray away from all conventions set by people; we can only assume that he’s giving us his piece of mind.
…and that is why this article will be far from a conventional review. I won't speak about the content of the songs much because that is something you can listen to, to understand what's happening in each song and what emotions come into play. Laying my experiences and thoughts would only make your ears and your mind biased to those interpretations. What good would that do? It’s also partly because this album seems really personal to the artist; forcing my views and perception into this article and criticizing it would not only ignore the artist’s emotional intelligence but also kill this article.

‘Soundtrack to an American Giallo’, as the name suggests, plays out as a soundtrack to a giallo film “conceptually”; though the artist insists that it can also be listened to as a regular album, something I personally prefer. The album’s dynamics cover a full spectrum of emotions which you can relate to as melancholic, be it sorrow, love, hate, monotony or even pain for that matter (that’s just me again!). These pieces are mostly done on just one acoustic guitar, sometimes accompanying additional layer of leads on either guitars or keyboards. What makes them really interesting is the minimal setting in which these songs are implemented. The sound is very warm and austere; you can hear sweet sound of each note being struck with a plectrum and the sound of all the dead and muted notes which come in every once in a while. It’s just so lovely!

I’ve always loved this kinda sound and I've not listened to so much of material with similar patterns of voicing being used throughout, but never really getting boring anywhere. All those intense sections on ‘The Last Will…’, ‘Fine Conspiracy..,’ and ‘The Dance Arrested’, along with the wondrous harmonies on ‘Awaiting…’ and ‘Wrath of the Journeyman’ really shows the calibre that Jonathan possesses. And after listening to the terrific last track, ‘Seeking to Establish…’, it feels like the guy never runs out of ideas. So, I'm pretty sure that there's so much more to come from him that we can look forward to.

‘Soundtrack to an American Giallo’ may not get a place on your top 5 list of the year, but I can assure you that it is definitely one of the very few albums that will stir your mind and really provoke you to go lose yourself to the infinity of your thoughts. It’s an album, not to be listened for some technical prowess or catchy melodies, but for the intense emotional aura it creates, whatever be its nature for you."

MERCHANTS OF AIR:
"After all the musical violence I've been through today, I needed something calm and soothing. So when I noticed this 'soundtrack' in my downloads folder, I didn't hesitate. After all, beautiful things have been done with acoustic guitars over the past few hundred years or so. Besides, when the artists mentions ambient, drones and noise in his review submission I usually get quite interested.

Jonathan Fraser is a musician from Huntington Beach, California, mainly experienced in guitar. In 2009 he started working on this solo project an several releases have seen the light of day ever since. This soundtrack for an imaginary giallo film is a gloomy, melancholic piece of work. The term "giallo" is used to refer to a particular style of Italian-produced murder mystery film which often includes elements of horror fiction and eroticism (according to Wikipedia). So yes, it fits quite well with this type of movies.

While the album opens with an eerie intro, indeed reminding me of old horror b-movie soundtracks, most of the album constists of acoustic guitar sounds. These often nugde towards folk music but also incorporate some influences from jazz and post-rock. Upon these strums, sometimes layers of soundscapes grow, enhancing the melancholic atmosphere. On other occasions vocal samples, flutes or other instruments are being used, adding a lot of variation to the album. The variation is quite welcome actually since this album is almost two hours long.

Although there's very few percussion elements, most of the songs have a clear, easy-to-tap-along rhythm. The rhythm often gains a repetitive, hypnotic element which is quite interesting if you ask me. It makes the whole enjoyable for the entire duration, especially when an array of different instruments alternate with the guitars. So if you like acoustic guitar music in the vein of Nick Drake, Rodrigo y Gabriela or Andrés Segovia you might want to check it out, although I think in that case you won't like the black metal version of 'The Dance Arrested' at the end."

credits

released August 10, 2015

Jonathan Fraser: guitars, keyboards, words on track 5, spoken word and lyrics on track 11
Isaac Lomeli: words on tracks 4 and 14

Mastered by Jan Platek from We Deserve This

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about

Jonathan Fraser Huntington Beach, California

Been playing and recording music since 2009. Most of my music revolves around melancholy, anger, frustration, love as well as hope. Emotion will always be what drives me.

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Track Name: Envying the Sinner
Poem:

I just want to dispel all the rumors I’m living.
I ain’t living a coveted life, I don’t live my way.
I’m living in demise of my own devices.
My lies are my burden and bane.
I live with such addiction to the pain.
If there is one truth to the rumors,
It’s only that I live a better life than you.

Don’t envy the sinner;
There can only be one winner,
And I am surely not he.
Don’t envy the sinner;
There can only be one winner,
And I am surely not he.
The grass is not greener,
It’s in the way I water,
That you envy me.
Don’t envy the sinner;
There can only be one winner,
And I am surely not he.

So let’s put an end to these rumors
we all tell ourselves: He’s better off than me.
If you want to know the truth about it,
The only thing I’m happy for is that
I spend very little of my life, thinking of you.
I rarely regret, though I do often doubt;
But then again don’t we all doubt…
Isn’t it in the end what life’s all about?

Don’t envy the sinner;
There can only be one winner,
And I am surely not he.
Don’t envy the sinner;
There can only be one winner,
And I am surely not he.
The grass is not greener,
It’s in the way I water,
That you envy me.
Don’t envy the sinner;
There can only be one winner,
And I am surely not he.

Faith, hope, and love we doubt.
Isn’t it in the end what life’s all about?
Track Name: Guilt in Fractures
Your love was smoke and mirrors but I could see through
God lied about your grey hair
I wait knowing you’re not there
Should I forgive you
You believe the lie that everything is fine and I pretend to not care
Is it better like that
Are you happy breathing or am I
I’d rather not know
When you’re gone, will you be happy or will I
Will you grow wings or horns
Would you deserve it
I’d rather not know
And just let your ghost decide
Track Name: Fine Conspiracy of Deluded Illusion
So here is why I think that everything is so deluded
This does not apply to me because I’m perfect and you’re not
You see people all around pretending to love their job but are really thinking “Just kill me!”
Everyone is looking to their leaders and saying, “Liar, liar, liar”
A guy with a million holes in him is more trusting then some proclaimed insecure goody too shoes
The preachers are all saying the same thing, “Sinners, sinners, sinners!”
Ya know, my man Jesus once said “Forgive them Father, for they not know what they do.”
If I had a dollar every time someone took advantage of that, I would have nuked them all to the high heavens by now.
A man who is admired by the community does the most logical thing to his wife, hit her!
The media obsesses with breasts and the models have scars on their so called perfect bodies
Children either get mugged, shot up, or think that they’re important
I just want to knock them all dead silly which is what I plan on doing
But they all say the same thing every time and are forgiven
I’m sorry, It’s alright
So I’m not going to waste my time on you maggots
I’m just gonna let karma come and chew you up
Track Name: Suddenly
Poem:

When the skies are grey, or the moon doesn’t show,
My feelings are lost to thinking of you.
Other times,
When the skies are blue, or the radio plays a happy tune,
My feelings overwhelm me and take me to you;
And then…

Suddenly, I break down and cry,
Lift my hands to the sky,
Asking God, why oh why?
Suddenly, I can’t take it no more,
I want to hold you again,
Love you more than before.
Suddenly, you appear,
Taking away all my fear,
And I know you are near.
Suddenly.

Days and nights are the same, nothing seems to change.
A good day is, when something feels strange.
I can’t lie,
I kind of like it this way, I fight so you don’t slip away.
So I keep the home the same, our favorite songs still play;
And then…

Suddenly, I break down and cry,
Lift my hands to the sky,
Asking God, why oh why?
Suddenly, I can’t take it no more,
I want to hold you again,
Love you more than before.
Suddenly, you appear,
Taking away all my fear,
And I know you are near.
Suddenly.

Wherever you are, it’s too far from me.
When all I want to do… is to feel you,
Is to hear you,
To love you again.

I smile, I feel good,
At times when something reminds of you;
someone smells like you, looks like you,
sounds familiar to you.
But then…

Suddenly, I break down and cry,
Lift my hands to the sky,
Asking God, why oh why?
Suddenly, I can’t take it no more,
I want to hold you again,
Love you more than before.
Suddenly, you appear,
Taking away all my fear,
And I know you are near.
Suddenly.