Communication is one of the most vital aspects of any relationship, be it personal or professional. Without a basis for understanding one another, interpersonal relationships run the risk of crumbling quickly. It’s with this in mind, coupled with the band’s statement on the EP being about “the normality of relationship issues”, that Joan Banoit’s self-titled debut exists as an interesting response to communication thanks to its intentional incommunicability.
Hailing from Australia, the band’s name is one letter away from legendary Olympic marathoner Joan Benoit, and true to her event, the five tracks bear little sonic resemblance to a sprint. An important stylistic predecessor in this regard, made all the more explicit by the EP’s deep blue water splashed with bright waves looking like an homage to his Instrumentals mixtape, is Clams Casino. Like his productions, these songs absolutely stretch their three-and-a-half-to-four-and-a-half minute runtimes thanks to the slogging electronic production and distorted vocals that betray little in the way of tangible words; those familiar with Clams will know that despite this, the intended feeling is always conveyed.
This view was expressed by philosopher Carl B. Sachs in his essay “What Is to Be Overcome?” in History of Philosophy Quarterly, writing, “Like music, poetry is neither true nor false, but rather an ‘expression’…of one’s existential attitude toward the whole of life.” By choosing to center the release around commonalities in relationships and intentionally obscuring the vocals, Joan Banoit is making a statement about their attitude toward this aspect of life. That this vital channel of communication becomes unclear forces a reliance on the production to reveal more about the thesis of the project.
Unfortunately, this obfuscation of vocals is also the project’s greatest flaw. Unlike sonic predecessors jj, whose hip-hop-infused cloud music contains a distinct vocal stamp on each song, there’s little to separate one track from another on Joan Banoit. This makes the EP a listen with undoubted continuity, but one where choosing a favorite track simply becomes impossible; one can enter and leave the release where one chooses, assured a breezy listen no matter the song.
Joan Banoit is yet another enjoyable listen in the ever-expanding world of delicate electro-ambient music with a pop twinge. On each of the EP’s five tracks, little technical flourishes indicate the care with which this was made. When compared to other releases in the genre from just the past couple of months, however, like jj’s exceptionally conflicted single “I Wish” and High Bloom’s magical Haloed, this debut presents itself as a good beginning with the aforementioned releases showing just where maximizing their sound’s potential can take Joan Banoit. Communication is key, and improving on the band’s template will assuredly spark lots of conversation.