José Contreras – S/T

Review by Dan Empringham

There are seven elements in modern music, these elements make up the vast compositions we hear every day. Every artist or band tends to choose one that makes them who they are, something that defines them. The Talking Heads used rhythm to their advantage and a group like Godspeed! You Black Emperor, use dynamics as a backbone to their atmospheric cacophony of noise. José Contreras has chosen melody. His melodies are what makes By Divine Right a principal of Canadian indie rock. José uses melody to project his lyrics of love and spirituality.  José’s new self titled record focuses on those lyrics by cutting away the crunching Fender Jaguar riffs and straight ahead rock drums and gives us what he is so good at, melody. Throughout the whole record the only percussion instrument heard is his soft piano, outlining the chord structure we’re used to hearing at head-banging levels. The listener is given a chance to listen to the words; words that have been underrated by many.

The record progresses through the José catalogue including a few rarities, “Psychic Radio” off of the six song E.P. Hybrid TV Genii being one of them. The cuts José chooses are what fans would like to see at any BDR show. He does a great job of giving the die-hard fans something to smile about, and some of the newer cuts he has chosen lets the die hards know that José is still the melody maker we all fell in love with on All Hail Dischordia and Bless this Mess. One of my favourite songs chosen is “Twisted Crystalline,” a song that holds the great minimal guitar line that made me fall in the love with it in the first place but also puts a hell of a lot more weight on the lyrics written fifteen years ago, “May not know but I want to know, may not care but I want to care”.

During the course of the record, José speaks of angels. He wants you to listen to them, say hello to them and wait as they whisper in your ears. José has always been a very spiritual song writer and performer but never someone who brings religion into his writing. José wants you to listen to music, introduce yourself to a new experience and be aware that music is around you, no matter how quiet. As this retrospective record of his career unfolds from the first to last song, it can be assumed that music is religion to José and when he is creating, it’s as if he is having some sort of heavenly experience. Serenity and love wash over you as he speaks of love and light, all the while encouraging you to hum along to that amazing melody.