I will always cherish the music of July Skies for being so heroically dedicated to the simple, youthful project of chorus and delay. JS's music is rarely complicated by complex riffs and rhythmic gestures, but rather enigmatically weaves throughout the listener an experience of plentiful, winding innocence.
JS is like a Shoegaze band stripped down the elemental OM of its energy, concerned with nothing concrete, floating with a sort of dazed clarity above the architecture of an upwardly-plucked chord, submitted fully to the dreamy and nostalgic winds that carry it from fields to hills to the crest of a star-clouded night sky to a woven chair sitting nobly on your parent's lawn.
The Weather Clock is admittedly only a pale reflection of JS's previous two albums. A feeling of redundancy might come over the listener who hopes for a "new" project, a more complex approach to the watery, flickering and momentary arpeggios. In fact, on my first listen of The Weather Clock, I was disappointed by riffs that seemed overly-inherited from common atmospheric plots and a nagging sense of the band having not gone the "the extra mile." Each previous JS album was harmoniously ruled by undeniable narratives: The disarming, ocean-born epiphany hovering just above coast-nearing waves in Dreaming of Spires, and the brilliantly wooded storminess of The English Cold that is somehow never inundated by the weight of continual rain. After repeated listens, I've come to the conclusion that The Weather Clock is both a frustratingly simplistic reenactment of the July Skies narrative, and yet still has the affective power to revivify the "hidden child" with true aural ribbons; their colors somehow refuse to fade through recycling.
A massive sea pulling ceaselessly to and fro the coast; a deep green and khaki world soaking in steady rains--they are replaced by the light greenness that half-dissolves into the continual sunlight of The Weather Clock, a world in which a 10am cloudless day gradually meets a falling, golden-red curtain of evening, which escapes the shroud of night by being immediately returned to that early crystalline blueness. Night is bypassed; the butterflies, crickets, grasshoppers and ants continually roam.
In the Weather Clock sound is the bittersweet death of the entire world for the inevitably late memory of the childhood shell, in which you were blissfully devoid of the cloudiness of philosophy, happily devoid of a sense for all the incorrectness and brutality of a world that keeps erasing the sums following the equal signs, peacefully devoid of chemical abstractions of soul, gracefully devoid of the stress for societal integration, relievingly devoid of an excessively human conception of God.
The Weather Clock world is therefore filled with brilliant sunlight that permeates all form, as a matter of fact precedes all form and then emanates from it its innumerable appearances (tree bark, blades of grass, finger dust, earthworm, brick wall, butterfly). The light swims through a pure air of a solacing unknowing that envelops all form like an omniscent glass, creating the sensation that wherever you glance you do so through a single, every-bending air of glass.
In the Weather Clock world you wake up to your birthday, and you are fulfilled with self-love before your guests arrive for the candle lighting. Love is evident; it is Here; it lives Here.
The cruel irony of The Weather Clock is its simultaneous reproduction of life's beginning with an image of life's twilight. The Weather Clock measures a precise hour, woven tightly into a mechanical ball and stamped into history by a robotic voice. This ball gradually dissolves under the delicate vibrations of guitars and sighing voices, shifting from its metallic form to a ball of yarn, which gradually unravels throughout the album until it unfolds over the hill of memory and is bleached by the sun into a plain sheet of paper over which an elderly woman rights a love letter of devotion to her silent and gracious husband. Still, at the dawn of her life, she feels a continual need to express her adoration, to fulfill it; she displays a hopeless sense of having not done it quite right, and yet she is immensely hopeful for the inextinguishable power of love. Her words push the moon back behind the earth, push the sun back around and over her English field, giving new day to the incomplete experience of life's original maddening purity.
Looking at it now, it's presumptive and arrogant to have accused this band of not "having gone the extra mile." Of course they have; there is only one July Skies, in the music world and in my sappy music heart. Any music lover wants to be transcended by their favorite bands, and when these bands do not IMMEDIATELY transcend them, a knee jerk reaction ensues. Stupid and pointless.
While I still must admit that I enjoy JS's previous albums a bit more than The Weather Clock, there is a point, a breath, at the end of this album that totally encapsulates the purity of this band for me. Just before the old woman reads her letter of undying love, between .24 and .42 seconds, there arrive strings of indelible, conscious, visceral tenderness. This is earth music at its clearest. Two divine notes complete two statements, precisely between .28 and .29, and immediately at .33 seconds. In these silken and pastoral notes, that soar half-wakingly over lush green Welsh fields, is some kind of optimistic proof of the worthiness of the world. They say that we're all born good; they forgive us for our forgetfulness of the simple plan--to embrace, to sit back in wonder, to try your damnest not to squeeze too hard the devoted mantis between your fingers.