One half of Alabama duo Quality Strangers, Josh J. focuses on the acoustic half of his band’s sound with solo project Fiery Crash, and not coincidentally, finds a more organic, natural dreaminess. On new EP Before an Interim, the electronic bent that his other project relies on for much of its trippy atmosphere is replaced by washes of far-away acoustic guitar and chilly, lustrous reverb. Despite the bold, splashy project name (perhaps an allusion to Andrew Bird), this is an EP that finds harmony in nuanced, breezy simplicity.
The minute-long intro “Scattered Branches” sets the atmospheric table, unfurling like a sedated Sung Tongs cut, wordless vocals churning towards the forefront, charming guitar swarms humming quietly. The last thing anyone would expect to follow that would have to be a My Bloody Valentine cover, especially something off of the shoegaze masterpiece Loveless. But there it is, a woodsy version of the five minute long “Sometimes”, making its watery way like a constant current. More chill fodder out than mindblowing re-envisioning, the track is a pleasant distraction.
That same easy, amiable experience persists throughout, each of the five tracks melting into the next. There are some unnecessary flourishes, though, additions to that simple formula that wind up jarring. The sharp lead guitar on “Perfect Lighting” cracks through an otherwise lilting track, the vocals just diffident and warbly enough to pass for a Phil Elvrum acolyte.
But perhaps summing the EP up most succinctly is the title to the penultimate track, “Politely”. Fiery Crash slides by, unwilling or perhaps unable to do anything flashy or attention-grabbing enough to be anything but polite. While that certainly works in its favor at times, the depth behind that polite, chilly ambient folk isn’t always there. To be able to survive in breathy near-nothingness, a la Grouper, the distance has to match the flow. Before an Interim is a nice listen, something ultimately pleasant.
Essential Tracks: “Sometimes”, “Politely”