Joshua Stamper – The Skin, the Sea, the Sound

“With nostalgic sensibilities and touches of indie rock, The Skin, the Sea, the Sound,” sneaks up on you with its import,” says Etchison.

Holly Etchison

out of 10

Joshua Stamper
The Skin, the Sea, the Sound
April 1, 2014
New Jerusalem Music

Listening to Joshua Stamper’s music is like reading a book in your favorite chair. Unfolding layer by layer, bit by bit, the songs saturate the senses with details that transport from a comfortable vantage point. His latest release, The skin, the Sea, the Sound, is indeed a sensory adventure. Stamper mingles musical meditation and contemplative, bare bones poetry with reflective interludes erring on the side of gentle genius.

Songs like the pensive, “We’re Not Dead Yet” draw with repetitive, simple strings and wave like echoes that eventually evolve to a sixties jazz shuffle and find you winding your way down the street with Holly Golightly and Paul Varjak. The transitions don’t stop there; in a new wave pop jazz moment, you can almost hear Elvis Costello singing “almost you, almost blue” in the last lines: “Battles waged and battles won.”

The artfully penned “A Better Telescope” strikes a profound chord, satisfying the mystics in the crowd, highlighting the limitations of our own towers of thought and vision, a brilliance beyond ourselves: “for you I need a better calculus. With you the math no longer works. You’re terror, you’re grace, you are rest, you’re the chase.”

Ruth Naomi Floyd’s smoky vocals on “I Feel the Dust of the Moon Beneath My Feet” are rich and dreamlike. The vocal interplay between she and Stamper, whose tones could moonlight with Leonard Cohen’s, feels like a chase through blooming spring woods. Mid-song the action builds with horns and quick percussion, and raw guitar abbreviations add delightful contrast.

Paul Arbogast also impresses on low brass, underlining the action throughout. Horns consistently create a poignant framework, especially on songs like the delicately sung, nine minute “I’d Like to be Like You.” A blast here and a blare there add a musical exclamation point to the vivid lyrics: “You who spin the stars, cradling the hills, waking whales beneath the sea, you who walk the wind.”

With nostalgic sensibilities and touches of indie rock, The Skin, the Sea, the Sound,” sneaks up on you with its import. Joshua Stamper proves himself again as a seasoned “sound” man with surprising compositions surfacing from a deep well of thought, emotion, and skill. Catching up with him on his latest release, we are urged to melt and unwind, go farther on and further in, and at the same time, remain.

-Holly Etchison, April 28, 2014