Jim James’s first solo effort (besides an EP of George Harrison covers, under the pseudonym of Yim Yames) demonstrates an accumulation of instrumental and vocal skill from years in the music industry. While My Morning Jacket – of whom he is the frontman – have increasingly become known to dabble in various sub-genres of indie rock, I see this album as a continuation of James’s desire to pursue yet another sound.
Regions Of Light And Sound Of God appears a concept album to some degree, inspired by an 80-year-old graphic novel, Lynd Ward’s God’s Man. The two share similar themes, both concerning the association of love and corruption. Influenced in some areas by 80’s art-pop, and in others by a more basic 60’s sound (incredibly Beatles-esque at stages), James’s rhythmic swoons are complemented by a wonderfully effective ensemble of instruments.
The initial songs on the album are certainly slow burners, as are those at the end. There’s some beautiful violin playing at the outset of Actress and a skilful layering of instruments around echoing vocals in State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U), which create a cumulative effect and a moody, ultimately climactic, atmosphere. However at times, James becomes slightly repetitive, particularly in I Didn’t Know Till Now in which we hear him amidst a combination of distant clamours and pattering piano riffs, saved by some wonderfully effective crackling at the end, which accompanies the song to its harmonious finish.
The core of this album is refreshing, with songs that are less full in their texture but distinctly warmer and more melodic. Despite the absence of words in Dear One, it transfixes with a gentle lullaby-like sound. Birdsong is to me what would result if Frankie Goes To Hollywood were to write a ballad, with the combination of ascending melodic sequences on the xylophone and birdsong being wonderfully effective. Following the haunting All Is Forgiven, which hammers home a seemingly religious message with a disconcerting use of percussion, Jim James’s vulnerable portrayal of Luther King’s powerful words in God’s Love To Deliver is a splendid way to end the album.
With a title that teeters on the edge of pretence and a distinct lack of the immediately captivating tunes so frequent in My Morning Jacket records, Regions Of Light And Sound Of God moves far too slowly at times. This is however made up for by several moments of artistic brilliance, which ensure that Jim James’s first solo album is pretty mesmerizing overall.