Last week Jesse Marchant, the singer also known by his initials JBM, came to London to embark on his first European tour. Canadian-born (Montreal) and now living in New York City, JBM has covered a fair bit of ground with his music: he has toured the USA, supported the likes of Alt-j and Other Lives and released two albums that have received critical acclaim. His most recent LP, Stray Ashes, came out in 2012 with Fargo.
At Bush Hall, and on this tour, he is in support of Balmorhea, a six-piece instrumental outfit from Austin, Texas. JBM plays his acoustic guitar, harmonica and drums alone (he normally has a band to perform with) and his solitary presence engulfs the venue entirely. The sold out hall watches on in wonder, everyone seated on the floor, silenced by his bewitching vocal. His unique songs, that lean toward the melancholy and partially echo folk and country, are tinged with emotion that is comparable to hardly any sounds alive today. It is the utter urgency in which JBM's music is presented that forces his unforgettable sentiment to stay with you. Knowing that his last album was written in a remote cabin, brings an added element of solitude and vulnerability on listening.
Cleo's Song, featured on not even in July - his debut album released via Partisan Records, is somber and compelling. As he performs he is still and looks downwards for the entirety of the song. Winter Ghosts rolls in with its haunting intro - the lyrics in this track speak about dealing with loss and the inevitable acceptance, a theme not uncommon in the poetry of his music - mesmerising everyone, his winding vocal powerfully encasing the room. When he plays Moonwatcher, which halfway through breaks down in to a hard grunge-thrash of electric guitar, the music gradually envelops the vocal making a unified harmony and a fervent tier is introduced to the set. JBM is touring in Europe until October 17. Words and photo: Ruby Ocean