JMSN, Norwegian Arms
2125 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA, 19103
Doors 8:00 PM / Show 8:30 PM
This event is all ages
Picture a house constructed of glass, tucked away on a hillside, up a steep winding driveway. It’s only several miles from downtown LA, but far removed from the smog and celebrity. From this mountain repose, you can see the freeway buzzing in the distance. You’re aware of the sounds of the city clucking. But mostly, you feel the golden light permeating through the walls and hear the empyrean voices echoing within. This is Rapor.
Rapor is both the name of Active Child’s new EP and the appellation for the residence in which the music was created (“Ra” means sun. “Por” means house.) It’s where singer and multi-instrumentalist Pat Grossi found sanctuary, refuge, and inspiration in the wake of nearly two years of touring his wildly successful Vagrant Records debut, 2011’s You Are All That I See.
“Sometimes I’d spend a week alone at the house writing without leaving or having visitors. It was during those periods that I realized how important this space was to me personally and creatively,” says Grossi, whose celestial falsetto was initially cultivated in the Philadelphia Boys Choir. “It gave me a platform to sit on and reflect, and it surrounded me with a beauty that’s a key inspiration for my music.”
If angelic is an overused but accurate cliché used to describe Active Child’s music, Rapor achieves equilibrium due to the gravity of real-life experiences. While traveling across the globe, Grossi was overwhelmed by the outpouring of sentiment from fans. These interactions allowed him re-focus on the cathartic power of music. The songs on Rapor are more than just beautiful cathedrals of sound. They contain both the cuts and the confessions only achieved through intense solitude and introspection.
“I had a few rare moments with people who approached me, threw their arms around me and sobbed, like they had just been reunited with their long lost brother,” Grossi says. “Sometimes it was overwhelming, but other times I heard their story of what brought them to my music. It changed me and how I saw song writing; it showed me how powerful a song can be and it made me want to go home, and focus on writing music that could heal.”
The record’s gestation included days spent writing instrumentals, building the spine for the melodies and lyrics. Each night, Grossi returned to his creations and sang over it—the mood of the track often acting as a mouthpiece for his subconscious. It’s both meticulously sculpted and stream of consciousness, allowing for ideas, songs, and stories to glide through.
One particularly stunning example is “Silhouette,” Grossi’s collaboration with Ellie Goulding. The pair channel a young Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel with a radiant fervor only found in those who share a legitimate musical connection. “Subtle” finds Grossi in seraphic union with Rihanna collaborator, Mikky Ekko. Stereogum immediately hailed it as “wonderful.” Pitchfork raved about its intense physicality.
The EP foregrounds a national winter tour, leading up to a full-length album tentatively due out next spring. Grossi has been almost constantly recording in Rapor, creating rhapsodies amidst the glass and sun.
“These are my stories, my heartache, my vows, but I want them more than ever to be those of the listeners too,” Grossi says. “I want them to share in my excitement and my pain, and make it their own.”
Twenty-five year old Christian Berishaj has been performing since he was a teenager but only under the JMSN moniker for the past year. With the new name came a new, raw sound that reflects the darkest, most parts intimate of his soul and is already drawing him comparisons to the Weeknd and gaining him fans of the likes of Usher and other heavy-R&B-hitters. He released his first album as JMSN, Priscilla, in early 2012. Self-directed videos for "Alone", "Hotel" and "Something" were released to accompany the album's release.
Three years, two EPs and one album since his Siberian sojourn, Keith Birthday of Norwegian Arms has turned his focus away from the confines of his tiny apartment in the Taiga, which largely informed the songs on their debut LP, Wolf Like a Stray Dog. That doesn't mean that the sunny folk music generated by his time in Tomsk, Russia has become any less relevant, or that the sound has changed drastically. Instead, it's morphed from real-time cultural awe and suffering to nostalgia, and while the memories remain, new ones have taken their place. That being said, nothing has, or perhaps ever will, replace the childhood mandolin on which these songs are written, perhaps the only constant in this ever-evolving project.
In the time since returning to his native Philadelphia, Birthday has found new beauty in the wreckage that surrounds his post-industrial warehouse apartment. Dilapidated buildings, shifting friendships, and late night bicycle rides inform this new batch of songs, a celebration of deeper personal understanding. Still deeply influenced by his continued travels, these new songs draw from trips to South America and Europe, and the sense of Wanderlust remains.
Still obsessed with languages and their systems, Birthday refers to these new songs as imperfective, referring to verb 'aspect' present in Slavic languages, which focuses on the current process, not a past event or a future result. He still feels strongly that it's about the journey, not the destination, a spirit still embodied by these songs.