by Ryan Snyder

As the primary songwriter in Chapel Hill rock band North Elementary, John Harrison’s devotion to sonic nuance is only exceed by his commitment to playful obfuscation. The band tipped its hand a little in 2010’s Southern Rescue Trails, but the precursor Not For Everyone, Just For You was a jigsaw of mood and charm; all the pieces were out in the open just waiting to be solved, and the outline was already in place. Without the checks and balances that a band offers, however, Harrison is free to delve into more esoteric ideas, though he finds himself capturing them rather lucidly on the second album released under his solo pseudonym Jphono1, Know Your Clouds. The likeness of his solo handle to an AOL username circa-1999 seems not too coincidental given the album’s elusive nature; only piece by piece does Know Your Clouds reveal itself — initially with the ponderous electroacoustic folk of opener “Saturday Blues 2nd Round”, followed by the delirious blast of instrumental guitar pop on “Wall of Women.” There, he channels Robert Quine’s contributions to Matthew Sweet’s Girlfriend in what he essentially has described as an experiment in attention-getting. There are several long passages where the listener — and no doubt Harrison — lose themselves among the translucent synths and casual but welcoming weirdness before Harrison moves to expand on a world that feels both virtual and intimate at the same time. “Now that you’re here/ Don’t freak out,” he asks on “Don’t Freak Out” as the entire arrangement seems written for the sole purpose of counting time. That is, until a wash of Floydian noise assures that it is in fact okay to do so.


Jphono1 will perform as part of the Potluck Records showcase at Krankies on Saturday.