Jeads — the recording name of Jonathan Eads — has a clear fascination with the way sounds interact. Following a Bellingham snowstorm in March 2019, the musician allowed atmosphere to permeate creation, and creation to be fuelled by a collection of post-storm field recordings and — most prominently — a music box that carries nostalgia for the artist.
Under the Veneer leans on ideas of nostalgia to piece together a collection of instrumental ambient tracks that evoke the dripping of icicles, the crunch of snow, and tracks that warm with danceability.
“The music box represents a complex sense of home for me. A lot of the themes on this album were inspired by that concept,” Jeads explains. “Scratch a bit of veneer off the surface and you can often find something twisted and complicated underneath.”
Whether the artist is playing with delicate melodies and gentle percussion, as on “Morning Lull”, or existing in a heavier, more constant space (“Prelude to Fall”), there is unity in the continual use of the music box. “Mischievous” pulls the trickling melody into a sweet space to juxtapose the wayward backing instrumentation, and “Tetradic Sea” never quite catches on a melody — instead content to wander the space of the song.
But it is the moments when you are carried by the pulse under the surface that the album fulfils the promise of its title. “Crossover” is built on a foundation of a quick pulse buried below softer layers and “On the Mend” is dream-like, moving to and from the underneath-patterning that fuels it.
Under the Veneer is a careful collection of layered tracks that flow with seeming effortlessness, but on closer listen, are thoughtfully joined in order to hide, then reveal, the true meanings of the songs.