J.R. Alexander – Moments EP

Moments EP cover art

Artist J.R. Alexander
Album ‘Moments EP’
Genre Ambient/Electronic
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Label Sound in Silence Records
Release Dec 22 2012
Rating Solid

Some of you may recognize the name J.R. Alexander, who has released previous material under the moniker Message to Bears. The U.K. musician has 3 releases under Message to Bears, whose previous work can be described as ambient murmurings of the heart-warming variety, occasionally venturing into the folk genre with vocal laden tracks but for the most part could be considered lighter, subdued post-rock. Alexander has dropped the Message to Bears moniker for his latest EP, ‘Moments‘, which saw release through Sound in Silence Records and has already nearly sold out of physical copies. ‘Moments‘ in many ways treads upon Alexander’s previous musical ideology except with an added presence of electronica, glitch and downtempo influence.

Moments‘ is a 5-track, 15 minute moody yet ultimately relaxing EP that should encourage the mind to drift as any good post-rock release should.. While some post-rock purists will be quick to write off this release for the use of beats commonly associated with glitch/electronic genres, this EP is much more than just a shift in genres from a talented musician. Alexander has incorporated these new sounds into his soothing ambient offerings in a way so that it doesn’t feel unwelcome or done in haste. Don’t get me wrong, ‘Moments‘ is not an electronic post-rock release similar to that of The American Dollar nor does it feel like a proper electronic/glitch or downtempo album either. Rather it comes off unlike anything I’ve heard before. By combining gorgeous string instrument arrangements, elegant piano work and rusticly smooth acoustic guitar work with electronic-inspired beats Alexander has created a downtempo sound that quite frankly has me struggling to find the proper way to describe it.

The EP’s opening track, “Memories” embodies everything I’ve mentioned in the last paragraph and is a relaxed number that should captivate the imagination after your initial thoughts on the albums intro subside. “Walking Over Me” continues the album as a spacious sounding track with an infectious piano beat. Filtered vocal harmonies simply feel like yet another musical layer, similar to that of the way Jonsi of Sigur Ros uses his voice as instrument when singing his hopelandic gibberish. “When We Meet Again” feels like a companion reprisal to “Walking Over Me” and is closer to downtempo electronic than anything remotely post-rock. The track is embedded with heavy use of glitch electronics and a slow piano hook as a filtered vocal sample continually repeats itself on local. “I’m Glad” builds upon itself the way a traditional post-rock track would and showcases a very space age  16-bit video game like sound towards the middle of the track before finishing strong with a burst of acoustics and strings. “Goodbye” closes out the album with a more bassy tone, compelling string work and ambient rumblings that come and go on a moments notice.

To be completely blunt I’m not entirely sure if the post-rock crowd will be receptive to this EP. It’s really hard for me to make that call or any sort of assumption as I am a fan of electronica primarily of the downtempo variety. It’s certainly a departure from what we’ve come to expect from Message To Bears. However what makes this departure in sound so unique is that all of the musical craftsmanship of Alexander’s previous work is retained, just presented in a completely different manner.  My biggest problem with this release is that even for an EP it’s just far too short and for that I’m giving it a ‘solid’ rating. But other than that this EP is really enjoyable from start to finish and even if you are new to electronic music and come with an open mind I think a lot of post-rock fans could find it enjoyable too. 2/1/12