Joe Snape

Joe Snape by Andy Sawyer, artist against a dark blue curtain

Brittle Love / Tired Music

I heard Birmingham artist Joe Snape perform last year at a SOUNDkitchen event and was suitably impressed, so I was pleased when two short releases from him appeared this year on the labels Slip and Keshhhhh, respectively. The Slip record, “Brittle Love”, is a collection of short, melody-driven pieces, with a mix of intricate upbeat rhythms and mellower (yet no less complex) drifts. The music has a wonderfully childlike sense of fun and imagination, with attention racing from one gleaming fragment to another as if trying to take in the whole world in one breath. Many of the sounds seem to be derived from the voice, with sung notes somehow transformed into a variety of tones ranging from the wacky to the cute to the slightly disturbing.

“Tired Music”, on the other hand, is a gorgeous dose of ambient bliss, glacial tones ringing as they gently float through some giant ice cave. The childlike quality is retained, though shifting in valence in the direction of wonder and perhaps a little sleepiness. The use of pitch-shifts, allowing notes to wobble or slide ever so slightly, seems an important factor in creating this effect. When Snape’s voice enters, unmanipulated (or perhaps only very slightly) this time, towards the end of the piece, it’s a hair-raising moment.

These two releases offer a fine introduction to the work of Mr. Snape, and confirm his position as an artist to keep close tabs on. The playfulness and invention of his music remind me somewhat of the early work of a certain Dutch maverick who, as it happens, also contributed the cover art for “Tired Music”. While “Brittle Love” ventures into musical territories I’m not so familiar with, Snape’s talent remains obvious — and with music as joyous and beautiful as this, it’s hard not to listen without a smile on your face.

Photo of Joe Snape by Andy Sawyer

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