“It comes in circles, like turning seas pressed against the pull of planets.”
This is how Graham Jonson, aka quickly, quickly, kicks off his debut LP The Long and Short Of It released via Ghostly International.
Those lines are delivered by acclaimed poet Sharrif Simmons. It’s the beginning of a cosmic spoken-word tirad that marks the only vocal feature of the entire album. More than a suitable beginning for the journey into Johnson’s otherworldly sonic landscape that is The Long and Short Of It.
And what a journey it is.
Behind the facade of deceptively simple lo-fi ambiance, Johnson has hidden a treasure chest full of influences, melodies, and artistic decisions that could surprise those who are in for just another 40 minutes of generic beat music.
Johnson, who has played the piano since he was two, is an accomplished multi-instrumentalist and composer in his own right. This explains why all tracks are infused with guitars, keys, and horns that actually carry their own feel and personality, instead of serving as bland fillers.
Not that you can find flashy solos or intricate piano harmonies.
Most of the time Graham's instrumental prowess is quietly subdued in the name of the psychedelic atmosphere that permeates the whole album. When the time comes for his skills to shine, however, like the bluesy melancholy of “I Am Close to the River” or the bitter-sweet grungy vibes of “Everything is Different (To Me)”, they elevate the music to new heights.
That being said, it’s also surprising how versatile Graham Johnson is in his vocal deliveries across The Long and Short Of It. The album lets him unfurl not only as a composer and producer but as a singer as well. From the audible RnB flavor of “Come Visit Me”, through the souly touch on “Shee”, all the way to indie/alt-rock vocals on “Leave It” and “Wy” - Johnson never stops to play with new approaches.
All the more impressive is the fact that while he does it, he manages to retain a certain sense of monotony in his voice, which often blurs the line between singing and spoken-word performance. In other albums, this could have been the foundation of a botched attempt at originality, but in The Long and Short Of It, it only adds up to the overall feel of the LP.
This brings us to the most impressive thing in the album. That is, how it subverts the tired lo-fi/beat music tropes and cliches while relying on their restraint and minimalism. This is why the whole LP feels like bringing opposite forces together. In most of the tracks, The Long and Short Of It sounds both psychedelic and warm, cozy and experimental, deeply personal and awfully distant. Exchanging static drum loops for dynamic patterns, three-chord guitar melodies for an inventive and chameleon-like approach to the instrument, and cliched background keys for atmospheric piano harmonies, Graham Johnson lifts himself up far above the fold, and way beyond the “just another lo-fi artist” image that some people would wrongly prescribe to him.
The Long and Short Of It is a mesmerizing journey meant for those who seek something new from a genre that sometimes seems to be running in place.