While it was a slow burn for José González’s 2003 solo album Veneer in achieving international acclaim and an overseas release, this effort from last November
has quite quickly found its way to our shores. Hopefully people won’t take so long to catch on this time with his band project.
Joined in Junip by Elias Araya (organ, Moog) and Tobias Winterkorn (drums) along with a few other guests, Black Refuge treads similar territory to the Swede’s solo work. The same dour and meditative singersongwriter influences could be
cited (Nick Drake and Elliott Smith always seem to crop up) but the presence of the moog and electronic elements up the post-punk Joy Division ante. They also add a therapeutic juxtaposition to the recording, there’s cathartic splendour created here in the space between the gently uplifting synth lines and lyrics like these from the title track: “Say what you have to say, I know it isn’t you anyway. Use all the colours that you want I’ll use black.” González’s halting delivery of English seems to add to the melancholy air, words are rushed out, or left hanging incomplete.
The drumming must be mentioned, without Araya’s insistent beats, this whole exercise might flirt with that dreary territory that José’s acoustic album could be accused of strumming itself into after thirty minutes. But this five song EP doesn’t overplay its slow hand. The three original songs are followed by a short instrumental and an inspired cover of Bruce Springsteen’s epitaph for the grunt victims of Vietnam ‘The Ghost of Tom Joad’. This EP is worth a listen for that alone. With plans for a full length hopefully to follow before the year is out, expect that to drop with some fanfare. It could be something very special indeed.