Album Reviews

Johnny Jewel – Themes For Television

(Italians Do It Better) UK release date: 29 June 2018 (download: 21 May 2018)


Johnny Jewel - Themes For TelevisionA compilation of material that Chromatics lynchpin Johnny Jewel sent to David Lynch for Twin Peaks: The Return, Themes For Television works with a palette of synth pads to produce ambient soundscapes that reward close listening.

The album is mostly beatless, with brush kit occasionally making an appearance, and mostly instrumental, apart from the ethereal vocals on Saturday (Evening). Other staples that pop up every now and then include synthstrings, electric piano, saxophone and occasional atmospheric sound, and these add variety to a collection where consistency was the intention.

Opening track Requiem creates an ominous vibe with reversed synth tones and a high-pitched rhythmic signal, while Embers features pensive keyboard chords and a scalic lead melody. The Chromatics track Shadow, which was used in Twin Peaks, is present in a stripped-back version that replaces the steady 4×4 beat of electro-pop with a beatless arrangement that allows the nuance of the topline to shine through.

As is inherent in these kinds of compositions, the tracks are more focused on mood than structure. The majority of them introduce ideas, loop them and end, which can make some tracks (Tomorrow Is Yesterday, Black Room) feel a little aimless as a result. Nightmare is an exception, as a multi-layered drone slowly gives way to percussion that is then drowned out by a colossal glitchy bass noise.

The album is too subtle to have a clear highlight, but Waking Up stands out for its bursts of white noise, captivating chord sequence and ascending melody. Saturday (Evening), a stripped back version of a Jewel-produced Desire song, also impresses with its gentle, elegant pads and lovelorn lyrics. Themes For Television might not be the most dynamic album, but for fans of ambient electronic music it hits the spot.


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