Jordan Anderson’s former moniker, Grand Mal, recorded 18 songs over two scarce tapes in 2014. Nyte Lyte and Bashful Moon, respectfully, were the artifacts of an unhurried diarist. Anderson’s homespun songs weren’t a ‘shoot for the moon’ exercise; he sounded more inclined to wander the forest and watch the rainfall. Selected Acoustic Works (out now on Geology Records) revisits all 18 Grand Mal songs (plus two previously unreleased songs) with a wellspring of sequencing shifts and surprises.
Side A arises with “Rain/Wood.” Its elemental concerns orientate both nature and spirit. “Lonely” produces a fuzz of warmth resting on Anderson’s longing guitar strums. “You Are The Heavens” seems to elevate the listener’s mood toward a gentle crescendo. This comes in the soft steps of “The Rain it Raineth Every Day” followed by the gorgeously realized “Sundaylight”.
“Sundaylight”, the standout ballad from this collection, should’ve been on year-end lists back when released in 2014. Though cryptic and faint, Anderson’s sweeping piano-driven melody soothes as it crushes. It’s tenderly hummable and not far off lineage to Elliot Smith’s best work.
Side B’s songs are molded out of similar clay as Side A. Anderson’s words and instrumental phrasing find refuge through his elusive proclamations. He never sounds uncommitted or unsure, rather not interested in lifting the veil too far off. Consider the Christian mysticism woven into the song titles and the cover’s Trinitarian geometric pattern. Anderson’s common day incantations are everywhere, yet his spiritual wholeness/emptiness is mildly cloaked so one isn’t too sure what he’s reaching from/towards.
While cassettes still rub some crowds as gimmicky and old hat, the lavish packaging, poems, and layout on Selected are breathtaking. Anderson’s music fits the aesthetic. It’s private and tangibly set apart from the all-consuming streaming service juggernauts.
Selected Acoustic Works becomes the soft hand on your back, the pre-dawn walk, and Christmas Eve snow. Anderson performs these songs as if they were inscribed into him from birth. He carries and holds space with every note, thereby giving over to the gravitational pull that scours the cracks for flickers of light.