Occasional Din, the new fulllength LP from Chicago artist J Fernandez, is a sunny shoebox diorama for the eternal pessimist. Over the past decade, his songs by have appeared like unexpected gifts, each time invoking a holiday we didn't realize existed. And like good holidays, these songs are imbued with a mythical energy, full of curious moods, charmed settings and the timelessness of a familiar moment.Fernandez starts skeletons of songs with an organ and a Casio drum machine. Through endless revisions and tweaks, he builds and rebuilds each into complex arrangements. With Occasional Din , he mines the sound of the pastÍ¾ drawing influences from vintage Italian pop and soundtrack composers like Bruno Nicolai, Alessandro Alessandroni, and Mina, as well as their American contemporaries like The Free Design and Margo Guryan.Lyrically, Fernandez expands on previous themes of isolation by exploring topics such as climate change, trendforecasting and data collection. The result is a playful pop record that holds a kaleidoscopic mirror up to ourneed for escapism.
"There's a certain, undeniable feeling associated with the songwriting of J. Fernandez. There are plenty of familiar touchstones and influences deep and intricately woven; Marquee Moon guitars, an affectless, Kraftwerk-ian singing style, psychedelic dissonance and melodic structures not entirely unlike The United States of America, and a modern warmth like Chris Cohen's work with The Curtains and Deerhoof. But, dropping these names doesn't adequately sum up what J. Fernandez has captured here. On Many Levels of Laughter, he has invited us into his own, very special, Universe. One that presumably exists only in his head, or at the very least in the Chicago bedroom where he recorded the album, alone.
Giving yourself over to this record for 36-or-so minutes is a bit like agreeing to Gene Wilder's version of The Wondrous Boat Ride, you're going to experience things you don't expect. Some of it will be immediately wonderful, some of it will be confusing and magnificent. Only, instead of a nightmare-fueled, psychotropic freak-out, it feels more like a Brian Wilson daydream, magically stepping into the scraps of tape and interlude left on the cutting room floor once they finally got around to assembling SMiLE." - Mike Adams