17.02.2016 | Words by: Deva Rao
As a human having engaged with culture and/or music at some point in your rich and experientially prosperous life, I strongly advise you to be thankful for the continued existence of James Pants (neé Singleton). His music is a testament to an artist existing solely on his own terms, unimpeded by a need to acquiesce to the standards or expectations set by whatever phase the music press’s inevitably short-lived buzz genre du jour exists in. His are a singularly… weird, for lack of a better term/vocabulary, set of sonic reference points, encompassing long-forgotten thrift store soul, doo-wop, new age and psychedelic twelve inches as filtered through a severely warped VHS scope.
Directly comparable artists are few and far between. While he does have kindred spirits in a number of vaporwave’s initial wave of progenitors in terms of drawing on broadly “retro”-leaning (ugh) sounds, JP’s tunes are, beyond his personal artistic intentions, homage to rather than repurposing or fetishism of. His employment of vintage-y, occasionally chintzy-sounding instruments, much like his gravitating towards bargain bin records, was born out of economic necessity rather than choice – their relative cheapness gave them the edge in his selection process.
I won’t go into the oft-referenced (though worthy) backstory to his initial encounter with label boss Peanut Butter Wolf, but suffice to say few more appropriate imprints exist for his music than Stones Throw, despite its existence outside of the eye roll inducing, puritanically enforced backpacker rap frame espoused by an unfortunate proportion of its most devoted fans. But the coupling makes sense – Stones Throw’s back catalogue harbours its fair share of madcap outsiders operating on the fringes of established musical forms: think Madvillainy, Donuts, Toeachizown, The Unseen and so on. And yet, Pants (ha) brings something else, an idiosyncratic ingredient beyond (my capacity for) articulation.
It’s in the nature of art writing to attempt to package an artist in terms of influences or broadly established, cosmetically comparable ‘peers’ or ‘scenes’ – this piece is no exception. But despite its overt anchoring in a wide range of vaguely familiar styles, know that James Pants’ music is anything but derivative – it succeeds in conjuring a universe all its own.