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July 20, 2009 | by  | in Music | [ssba]

Nocturnes: Mount Pleasant


“April, I have spent on the floor of my grandmother’s house, sleeping and recording some new songs. I was going to spread this release out into like a double album thing replete with comprehensive liner notes, detailed notes and references, photographed lyric work sheets, and alternate versions on a bonus disk. Something triumphant.

I didn’t really complete the album, and its not really an album.”

Nocturnes is the latest release by the now British-based but Christchurch-bred Jonathan Phillips (aka Mount Pleasant). As you can tell by the above blog post, Phillips isn’t particularly good at finishing things off. His short attention span extends into his songwriting as well. A typical Mount Pleasant track is less than two minutes long, and generally meshes together several fragmentary ideas or jarring juxtapositions, before fading out into a nothingness that guarantees the containment of any moment of melodic uplift to a fleeting burst, and little more.

This might sound like it would be incredibly frustrating to listen to, and at times it is, but generally speaking, Phillips’ striking vocals and gift for delicate arrangements ensure that even his briefest songs contain moments that captivate the ears and move the heart. Although Nocturnes is far from being “something triumphant,” it does find his songwriting at its most focused, and with a running time of 28 minutes, it’s also his longest EP to date.

However, despite his newfound distance from the ex-lovers and bleak landscapes of his native Mount Pleasant, Christchurch, Phillips’ lyrical modes and concerns (longing, regret, introspection and passive observation) remain largely consistent with those of his earlier EPs. Once the three minutes of droning bass-notes on opener ‘Prepared Piano’ have ebbed into the ambient swells of ‘Lisa Stranfield’, his first words set a clear tone for the rest of Nocturnes.

“Why am I always crying? / Why do I look so cheap?”

In an earlier interview with Salient, Phillips declared that Mount Pleasant was principally “music marked by [location and memory]. It’s not like a pity party or whatever, it’s just the way I write.” Shorn of his original location, Nocturnes finds Phillips emphasising the memories, perhaps even contemplating them with a new sense of calm and perspective. Sometimes this calmness might manifest itself melodically, like the delicately plinking xylophone of ‘An International’, while sometimes it can be heard in his vocals, as on the quiet nighttime musings of the downright gorgeous ‘Reverie, Reverie.’ In fact, I think there might even be a sense of hope (false though it may be) buried among some of the muffled lyrics and strained cries of Nocturnes. Take the closing lines of ‘Lisa Stransfield’ where he envisions a future in which his lost love might still be requited:

“Some day I’m coming back and it won’t be long before you call me / Call me. “

Let’s hope that she does.

Mainstream: 1
Indie: 8.0
Kim: Makes the iPod

Mount Pleasant


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Comments (4)

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  1. James Beavis says:

    Wasn’t it written here, before he left? Rio Joy is the new one

  2. Kim Wheatley says:

    I’m not entirely sure, he certainly released it while he was away. The blog post which accompanied the review seems to suggest that it was recorded in the UK as well, so that’s what I was working from, as well as a lyric in one of the songs that goes something like “great tourist opportunities of England,” not to mention some of his comments in the interview earlier this year. Anyway, I’m downloading Rio Joy now, exciting!

  3. James beavis says:

    My bad, i concede

  4. little richard says:

    james in flames

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