Review: Christ of St. John of the Cross — Rick Ross (The 405)

Christ of St. John of the Cross — Rick Ross (Kay Logan)

This article was first published by The 405 on June 4, 2014. For the full article, please follow this link:

Right off the bat: it’s not that Rick Ross. No, this Rick Ross is underground Glaswegian producer Kay Logan. Now, unlike the more famous Rick Ross, but similar to many other less well known solo musicians, I imagine that Rick Ross makes as much as humanly possible from each moment spent alone. From Ross’ 2013 mixtape Barack Odama, I got the impression that Logan desperately rushed home every night to twiddle with the buttons and levers, that thirst for solitude crawled in the deepest corners of Odama’s various forays into electronic and experimental music.

And nothing on Christ of St. John of the Cross has changed my mind. You see, as a result of its claustrophobic pops and crackles — reminiscent of Madvillain in shades — Christ of St. John keeps forcing my mind into forming the same recurring image: a lone teenager, sat over the edge of their bed, staring at the floor, expressionless. From start to finish this has the bleak personality of a smoky bedroom studio in full operation, with equipment strewn out on the floor. Each one of Logan’s subtle touches producing the idiosyncratic skips and twitches which are spread throughout the album’s 36 minutes.

And it’s those skips and twitches which paper the walls of this entire album and become its most recognisable feature. The repetition is unsettling at first, with quite a lot of potential forward movement becoming seemingly disrupted by a stuttering stylus which can’t find a groove. But it only seems that way. The truth is something entirely different.

Speaking about the album, Logan says there must always be “things to find”. Pay close attention and the treasures are unearthed. Listening to Christ of St. John is like refreshing a constantly updating Twitter newsfeed: the design, layout and atmosphere are all similar, but the information constantly changes until point A and point B can barely be linked. Every time a bar restarts itself, Logan has already placed something else in there, ready for you. It’s the patiently changing texture of the opener, ‘Glue Moves in Mysterious Ways’, which persists right the way through to the final track ‘I’m Dead’, and confirms something: throbbing progression is constantly at work underneath the surface of Christ of St. John.

Not only does Logan’s unconventional technique of building songs towards their climaxes introduce a fresh perspective of how music can be structured, it also exposes another side to the album which only displays itself in flashes: the hidden beauty, the shyness. ‘Heaven is for Real’ starts with the same claustrophobic, musky quality in the shape of intense, dry breathing, but is suddenly interrupted by what I’m sure is the last piano to ever be played on Planet Earth. It feels more like a beautiful cry for help than an outro, an upsetting interval to separate its constant refreshing.

‘Get a Mental Picture of the Horned God,’ which opens the album’s second half, vibrates slowly in a similar fashion to most of its surroundings: there’s the constant resetting present at the surface again as voice samples hide below. But dancing above it all are ice cold chirps reminiscent of Boards of Canada’s ‘Jacquard Causeway’. A lot like on Barack Odama, Logan calls upon the influence of the Scottish electronic duo to polish the edges of Christ of St. Johnand it is here that their influence on Rick Ross’ work is most prevalent. It’s another example of the beauty you can find in this album if you spend time reading into it, refreshing its pages and waiting for its surprises to jump out at you.

Having said that, it’s the waiting for the surprises which could turn people from persisting with this. I wouldn’t be surprised if some saw Christ of St. John as the last train station before you cross the border into Merzbow’s territory. I said earlier on that quite a lot of the puzzles Ross leaves behind only become obvious after spending time analysing them, but some may not be able to afford it such time. But whatever, that’s their own fault. I’ll concede that a mere fraction of the album’s skips and jumps get a little frustrating because of the way they fall slightly off beat on occasion, and sometimes Logan’s world building within each track can go a little overboard (‘Nettles’) — but you must pay this album the attention it both requires and deserves. I can promise everyone here that you’ll all be rewarded. Christ of St. John was exactly what I needed when I heard it: put simply, it was something a bit fucking different for a change.

Not every song has to travel between point A and point B in the same ABABCB structure. Thankfully, people like Rick Ross agree with me. I enjoy the traditional manifestation of popular music, we all do, but Logan has found a new way to demand that Christ of St. John of the Cross becomes more than simply background music. It’s all in the method of its evolution: look away even for a split second and you’ll miss a trick. In some ways that’s a double edged sword, because constantly refreshing a page means you have to digest a lot of information. But thankfully Christ of St. John will always be there waiting for you to go back and repeat the process again, and again, and again.