John Rossiter is best known as the guitarist, frontman and songwriter of Young Jesus, a band about whom we’ve been known to wax lyrical ever since they put out their debut full length, Home, back in 2012. Since then, Rossiter and Co. have put out the majestic Grow / Decompose, an album which seemed to operate according to higher aims and intentions compared to 99% of other records, as well as the excellent two song EP Void as Lob, which we argued, in a neat summation of the entire Young Jesus oeuvre, “possess[ing] an urgent relevancy… music [that] manages to capture something about our times in ways which aren’t easily described.”
Aside from Young Jesus, Rossiter works in a variety of other styles and media, releasing poetry and zines and solo bedroom demos in semi-steady drip. As a way of gathering together this work into something a little more cohesive and complete, he’s teamed up with Pacific Nature records to release Neverending Catalog of Total Garbage Heartbreak Aggregate, a solo album which collects his various talents into one little package. The album comes complete with two zines, On Conceptual Beach (1 and 2), which combine abstract art and poetry in keeping with Rossiter’s aesthetic, the watercolours taking on the appearance of natural stains and the scattered words having a found quality, as though washed up on some shore ready-assembled in cryptic order.
A similar feeling exists on the music itself, with intimate bedroom pop tracks, surreal rock rambles and textured ambient collages existing in a kind of organic mess, what Rossiter calls “wonderful trash. Compost-style. Generative and alive and squirmy.” And while you might not consider compost-style your favoured musical genre or form, the description is almost perfectly apt. The record serves as an ecosystem in which seemingly disparate elements pull towards a common goal, a harmony granted by the ever-present Rossiter-blend of oddness and kindness which breathes life into every thing he touches. “There’s a joke embedded in a lot of serious things,” he continues. “And it’s an important joke – full of pathos and sympathy.”
Opener ‘Philadelphia’ creeps out from an ambient hum, an introspective song relaxed in a way only possible through immense familiarity. But there’s a sense of transience here too, a long, persistent consideration on the ephemerality of things in the vain hope enough cyclical brain work might suspend time sometime down the line. ‘Moms Guitar’ is equally concerned with passing time (“gonna go for a walk / through the streets where I grew up / record my mom’s guitar / that she got at 17”), while ‘Normal Dogs’ is built from an insistent guitar line and background flutters, Rossiter’s vocals arriving in a flood, as though some dam wall has collapsed upstream, passing in a brief and overwhelming flash. Lyrically, the song is no less fervid, a stream of consciousness that shifts and snakes through everything from playing basketball with Karl Marx to prairie dogs hanging out with normal dogs.
Sounding something like Old Earth meets Ben Seretan, ‘On Conceptual Beach’ is far more expansive, a layered instrumental built from guitar and eventually ambient backing. The closing minutes are populated by hazy field recordings, like snippets of home video as heard through a wall, sounds happy and holy and heartbroken, echoes from a time you’re on the verge of forgetting. ‘Mirroring’ opens with a plaintive vulnerability, though rises into something more defiant, the lyrics packed with vague statements of intent and concerned with love, while ‘Jangly Dusty Coast Closet Galaxy’ is wordless and all the more human for it, the sung syllable possessing a communal, almost transcendental quality.
‘Drop Smokes’ is a song about displacement, about pretending, about feeling alone and distant in places you shouldn’t, and ‘Inks’ is equally concerned with being confused and acting otherwise. ‘To Need a Brokenness’, meanwhile, is part bedroom pop song, part Phil Elverum ambient track, based around our need for something to preoccupy us, to add some semblance of meaning to our days.
We always leave our parts like this,
like we always need a brokenness.
Something un-fixable to fix
The slow, spacey instrumental ‘Julio Julio y La Soledad’ weaves it’s way across a six minute stretch before closing inwards to a single tone, a note which unravels into closer ‘Give Love To Myself’, a ferocious conclusion of harsh tones which threaten to overwhelm the lyrics. Something in this sub-minute epilogue feels relevant to the release as a whole, Rossiter still trying to communicate through all of the static and noise as though you’re right there next to him. One reading of Neverending Catalog of Total Garbage Heartbreak Aggregate is that of an experiment, Rossiter figuring out the best way to reach out and say something, to transmit a little of what he’s thinking and feeling to you across whatever divide, distance and distraction might separate you.
Neverending Catalog of Total Garbage Heartbreak Aggregate is out now via Pacific Nature. You can grab it via Bandcamp, including on cassette, complete with physical copies of the zines.