JOSEPH SHABASON, NICHOLAS KRGOVICH & CHRIS HARRIS
The protagonist of Icelandic writer Halldór Laxness’s 1969 novel, World Light, gives a tearful goodbye to the grains and knots of his attic ceiling when he leaves after years spent staring up at them, bedridden. On their album Philadelphia, Nicholas Krgovich, Joseph Shabason, and Chris Harris chase a similar kind of romance toward the mundane and miniscule details made more visible by the world’s newfound relationship with the Great Indoors. The three musicians, who convened on a shared love of New Age music, create a space of sonic refuge out of softly electrified textures, burbling live instrumentation, and Shabason’s lacquered synth work, all of which support Krgovich’s koan-like poetry about showers before bed, dusty minivans, sips of gatorade, and the modern minutiae rendered beautiful by mere observation.
Contrasting the forced trend of remote collaborations, Philadelphia was recorded across three days of sessions in Toronto, pre-COVID. The trio’s physical proximity while recording underwrites the hushed tones that pervade the album, which itself reads like the kind of quiet, personal conversation that can only happen in close quarters lest it be washed away in the din of public life. Krgovich wrote the album’s lyrics under the self-imposed philosophy of “first thought, best thought” admittedly avoiding the well-trodden subjects of romance, love, and heartbreak. He chooses instead to reveal the romanticism of the world hidden in plain sight while Harris and Shabason deepen the sentiment with reflective, instrumental excursions.
Throughout Philadelphia, as with his solo work, Shabason and company intelligently reshape 90s adult-contemporary aesthetics for more experimental aims in a world where genre walls are permeable, and no juxtaposition is off the table. Even the album’s title track is a cover of Neil Young’s theme from the 1993 movie Philadelphia, which in turn takes its name from the so-called City of Brotherly Love. “It’s the city of brotherly love, and this album was three grown men in a room together making something over which we literally had zero disagreements or conflicts. It was truly a first for all of us in terms of making an album that was a group effort, so calling it Philadelphia made sense.” Their cooperation has produced an endearing exposé on the beauty that exists right under our noses, in the mental spaces and living spaces that our present circumstances are commanding us to get to know better.
Philadelphia has been released in the fall of 2020 and as the music spread worldwide it was received warmly by both fans and critics. All who have heard Philadelphia agree on the restorative qualities contained within, and in an attempt to provide more balm for the mind Idée Fixe and SKH offer up Florence.
Named after Philadelphia’s sister city, Florence is Philly’s instrumental companion piece, eschewing Nicholas Krgovich’s koan-like poetry to highlight and reveal the small details embedded within its predecessor. Amid the wash of languid keys, harmonized winds, rubberized bass, and glistening guitar a world emerges of babbling brooks, children playing and random percussion; all of which serve to immerse the listener in a deep calm.
Alternatively, one can use the album for a practice we have coined “Krgovich Karaoke”. Fans of Philadelphia can sing along and recreate Nicholas’ unique cadences in an attempt to deliver his lyrics in the manner Pitchfork hilariously observed as “…the patient poeticism of Bill Callahan returning from a yoga retreat.”
“Extracting the sensual, slow-moving movements of the Blue Nile or Talk Talk, lifting and updating the mild crooner feel from those outfits, and finding inspiration from the tonal make-up and continuously fermenting state of fourth world, ambient, and new age music, particularly Japanese new age, Philadelphia has its own highly relaxing character” – Dusted
“As relaxed as it sounds, Philadelphia is also a useful tool for confronting the drama of modern life.” – Pitchfork
“Shabason, Krgovich & Harris Show Why Adult Contemporary Is So Cool” – Exclaim
“this is music for interiors, sequestered days in tune with the beauty of our immediate surroundings” – Mojo
“The project was born out of a shared love of Japanese New Age music, which is present throughout without overpowering Krgovich’s wry sophistipop or Shabason’s deft jazz inflections” – The Fader
“A healing listen” – Beats Per Minute
“the places and spaces shaped by Shabason, Krgovich & Harris are indefinitely special beyond today’s reality.” – Dominionated
“Shabason, Krgovich & Harris have created a canvas on which to lay your emotions, giving us a chance to find the peace that far too often eludes us”§ – CBC
“De l’art du zen en milieu urbain.” – Popnews
“May we all be so lucky to find our own Philadelphia, wherever it may be.” – Aquarium Drunkard