October 31, 2020
With a penchant for earnest compositions, the avant-folk collective JPH have solidified themselves as enthusiastic and exceptional students of the music they are both inspired by and create. Led by artist Jordan Hoban, the band’s radically still and contemplative take on music erodes the expectations of genre and leaves the listener with a purified soundscape in which to interpret, or simply sit with, their own feelings.
On Halloween, or Samhain, JPH released Live At Petra’s, recorded at the beloved Plaza Midwood venue on February 15 when performing to a live audience was a natural occurrence. The performance was recorded by JPH member Thomas Michael Sizemore who typically records each performance as a way to study how the band can improve and create dialogue around arrangement and sound.
The band operates as a collective and not a set line-up, and that evening featured Hoban on vocals and guitar, Blair Bowman and Sizemore on harmonium and omnichord, Zach Jordan on electric guitar, and Tate Viviano on banjo (with all members aside from Hoban contributing backing vocals). Live At Petra’s is composed of two tracks, “Catskills” and “Hardest of Seasons to Gather,” with interludes of friendly banter, a finely concentrated snapshot of life before the pandemic.
The opening of “Catskills” captures the watery, muffled voices of the crowd which fades into a singular, extended tone that quiets the whole room so much that it’s hard to believe a room full of people were ever there in the first place. For nearly four minutes, a whispering crescendo forms before Hoban’s ghostly vocals come in just before the nine-minute mark of the ascending composition. “Catskills” written by Hoban, Bowman and contributing JPH member, Jacob Taylor, expands on the Herman Melville Moby Dick excerpt: “there is a catskill eagle in some souls that can alike dive down into the blackest gorges, and soar out of them again.” JPH twists the quote’s superior-through-adversity tone with a more compassionate one: “There’s a catskill eagle in your soul and you think it flies so low.” By using the homonym “solo,” the song can be explored through a wider lens; the eagle was never alone to begin with. The communal support from those around us gives each soul the strength to rise up time and time again from their depths.
All proceeds from Live at Petra’s will go to Petra’s and its staff. “The reason we decided on giving the proceeds to Petra’s is because, through thick and thin, the venues of Charlotte have been there for me, and I want to give back to them in whatever way I can,” Hoban said. “I would urge everyone, independently of this album, to donate to any of the local venues during the pandemic. We want to make music in the future, and we want there to be inviting places like Petra’s waiting for us on the other side of Covid.”
Listen to Live at Petra’s by JPH.