Tuesday, May 31, 2011
SJD - City of lost souls
(originally published in Pavement magazine, 2001)
SJD is the musical alias of one Sean J Donnelly. His second album Lost Soul Music, is one of the most entrancing records you will hear this year. It's a deliciously melodic blend of electronica, funk, soul, lounge, and odd dash of folk loopiness. It's incredibly hard to pin down just what it's appeal is, but it's totally irresistible.
Donnelly released his debut album 3 under his own steam back in 1999, and his follow-up Lost Soul Music has been picked up by Round Trip Mars Records, responsible for albums by Phase 5 and the Sideways compilation, which featured SJD. Label maestro Stinky Jim was positively frothing at the mouth when he told me about Lost Soul Music. I recall his words were something like "It's the ships biscuits, it's just brilliant".
Clearly his label has the faith, so how does Donnelly view the finished product? "I'm happy with it, in a confused sort of way. I'm not entirely used to it yet." It's only two days since the album was finished when I talk with Donnelly. "I've only heard it through a couple of times. I think it's probably quite good, but I'm still getting used to it", he says, humbly.
Lost Soul Music is the product of eighteen months solid work for Donnelly. "At the beginning of that year and a half, I had a lot of things I wanted to do, and to turn those ideas into coherent pieces of music tends to take quite a while. I can create music quite quickly. Sometimes when you've just got ideas, when you set out and actually do them, it can sound quite contrived. So, it took that long to be able to create organic sounding pieces of music out of them."
Even though his music uses electronica as a starting point, he doesn't see himself as working in the dance genre; "For me it's much more about writing songs, really, using the idioms of dance music and electronica as part of that process." With the title, Lost Soul Music, Donnelly says he was trying to describe the kind of music that he wanted to hear. "It's very ambiguous, and I guess for me, a lot of the music that influenced me on this was gospel music. I wanted to make a kind of gospel music, that someone who's an agnostic might make, maybe trying to find something spiritual in everyday life. And it's the lost soul thing: I'm a lost soul, like everybody else, I guess.
" There's the kind of music I'm making. It's a quality in music that I really really admire, but it's very difficult to describe, it's the quality of lostness. It's something that sounds really familiar, but somehow you missed it, or you've just found it., some weird unpolished gem. I love discovering those things, like some weird old Kraftwerk track, or some strange Syd Barrett song. And as difficult as it is to aim to make that kind of music, I hoped that some of my music would have that quality. In one sense they're songs, in another sense they're movies for the ears. I'd like the album to be like something that people could sit down and listen to like they might watch a movie". Cinematic Soul Music, anyone?