Band of the Day

2012.05.13

Jono McCleery

Intimate and introspective sounds that are meant to be slowly absorbed
Tonight I wrote a letter to me about all I know, in case I ever unlearn.
lyrics from Why Should I

Jono McCleery is an independent solo artist from London. He has toured with such artists as Gil Scott Heron, Little Dragon, and Portico Quartet. McCleery is part of the One Taste Collective, an underground London music movement that provides a platform for artists to showcase their talents. His first album Darkest Light was recorded and released in 2008 on Ninja Tune Records. The album was self-produced and funded by contributions from fans. McCleery toured in support of Bonobo in 2010 and then got back in the studio to record and release the Wonderful Life/Garden EP. His most recent album There Is was released in 2011, and has drawn critical praise in addition to comparisons to Miles Davis, Radiohead, and Massive Attack. McCleery is currently playing shows across Europe in support of the album.

On his artist biography, singer-songwriter Jono McCleery writes: “I grew up hearing my father and brother playing on our piano but I’m not sure how much I actually heard because I was intermittently deaf up until the age of 9 and my father died when I was about of 5/6 but I still got to absorb the beautiful sounds of my bro’s playing most nights when I was in bed dreaming.” Now, years later, McCleery is the one making beautiful music just waiting to be absorbed. The London-based musician first stepped out in 2008 with his self-produced album, Darkest Light, which was funded by fans (including folk-legend Vashti Bunyan and radio DJs Tom Robinson and Fiona Talkington). Though he's primarily a solo artist, McCleery also seems to thrive in collaborative environments. He's part of a diverse group of musicians and poets called the OneTaste Collective, which was formed during 2007's UK summer festivals, and his sophomore album (There Is) sees a collaboration with electronic producer, Fybe. The world of singer-songwriters and electronic producers rarely collide, but somehow Fybe's minimal beats and McCleery's beguiling vocals perfectly complement each other. Take “Home,” which has a driving bass line and a glitchy, almost-trip hop feel. McCleery never seems to fully enunciate the words; instead, his voice becomes like another instrument in the moody soundscape of electronics, strings, and the slightest touches of saxophone. “Only” starts with the stark tapping of three single piano keys, in a rhythm that's like someone absentmindedly tapping on a computer keyboard while trying to think of the perfect description to bring justice to McCleery's music. Joining in with just a whisper of vocals, to match the slightest touch of strings, is Vashti Bunyan. A muted bass drum is the song's heartbeat, sounding like that moment when you're standing right outside of a club, and can feel the pulsating beat without being in the ear-blasting center of the action. At nearly seven minutes long, “Tomorrow” is the longest track on the album. Musically, it's hard to place it in a particular time period. There's a cinematic quality to the way the double-bass is combined with a sparkling burst of strings, like it could be the soundtrack of a pagan pilgrimage through striking landscapes. When McCleery's vocals finally come in about four minutes into the song, he encompasses the sultry tones of an R&B singer on lines like, “So while you wait for the sun to rise again, think of us dancing in the rain.” With all of McCleery's music so far, there's an overwhelmingly dark feel—but it's never in a sinister way. Instead, it seems as if he's inherited his family member's abilities of making intimate music that's just waiting to be absorbed.