In 2018, the acclaimed New York quartet JOBS released the album Log on for the Free Chance to Log on for Free, a fascinating collection of atonal, minimalist post-rock featuring plenty of musical twitches, quirks, and mantras. But before that album was released, JOBS were already hard at work on a much shorter yet equally weighty album – this time, in collaboration with another artist from a different medium.
In the fall of 2016, JOBS and Arkansas-based painter and visual artist Sam King simultaneously began new, separate bodies of work, and shared different iterations of their works’ progress throughout the creative process. Adjustments were made to the works based on the feedback they received from each other (“pen-pal style”, according to King on his website). The result from King was five new visual pieces – four paintings and one low relief sculpture – documented in the artwork and insert of the JOBS piece, a two-track 7″ single called Similar Canvas.
The two tracks, “Similar Canvas” and “Different Properties”, should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with JOBS’ unique experimental style. “Similar Canvas” features haunting, sustained viola notes from Jessica Pavone, rapid-fire percussion bursts from drummer Max Jaffe, the understated bass work of Rob Lundberg, and – perhaps most unsettling of all –Dave Scanlon’s robotic, anxiety-riddled, multi-tracked vocal delivery. The intensity ebbs and flows throughout the track, moving from a minimalist ambience to hyperactive tension.
The high-strung jitters remain on “Different Properties”, but it’s a tension of a slightly different variety. Under a percolating bed of noise, Jaffe’s sparse beats and Pavone’s string noise accompany Scanlon’s highly treated voice, which is slowed down to a low, disembodied range as he recites spoken word. “I imagine that they interact,” he says. “Though they do not / They interact for me.” Soon, the pitch of Scanlon’s voice is manipulated in an opposite, helium-like direction. “My colors are my colors only / And I give them motion.” That gives voice to King’s notes on his works in progress as the changes in pitch suggest a variety of characters or perhaps one person with many personalities.
It can be difficult to parse out the motivation behind the artistic decisions that were made throughout these two very striking compositions. What’s fascinating about the songs is how they exist in a world very much their own. The listener can put on a pair of headphones and listen to the music while scrutinizing King’s works contained in the album art and devise any number of theories behind the inspiration. But in the end, Similar Canvas is a deeply experimental and exquisitely haunting pair of songs from four musicians who’ve carved out a unique artistic niche.