Desperate Journalist

In Search Of The Miraculous

In the 2008 documentary Here is Always Something Else: The Disappearance of Bas Jan Ader, the Dutch conceptual artist is briefly seen hanging from a branch above an Amsterdam river. The shaky monochrome footage shows him holding on for a short while before falling fifteen feet or more into the water. The act is oddly shocking, carried out with a madcap nonchalance that makes it as comic as it is unsettling. Lost at sea just two years later in 1975 while attempting a solo crossing of the Atlantic in a tiny boat, Ader both inspires and haunts the third album from Desperate Journalist. 

2017’s acclaimed Grow Up saw the London-based four piece flesh out their wiry aesthetic, building a wining hauteur into their elegant guitar pop. To make this so, singer Jo Bevan leavened her unflinching lyrical candour with an emerging poetic sensibility and guitarist Rob Hardy dressed his inner Peter Buck in an equally fetching shade of black. That direction continues on In Search Of The Miraculous, where Bevan’s lyrical impetus is fired in part by Bas Jan Ader’s work and life. Indeed, part of the strength of the record comes in the melding of this with Bevan’s compelling diarising, though it’s shorn of some of the harsher self-assessment of earlier releases. "I think of you driving, railside dusk," she sings amid the rumble and burr of opener ‘Murmuration’.

ISOTM is, at times, a stirring showcase for Desperate Journalist’s way with a tune: a swaggering melancholy exemplified by the effortlessly bittersweet ‘Cedars’ and the yearning chorus of ‘Satellite’ ("Through a backwards misspent youth, I was always reaching for you.") But the likes of ‘Murmuration’ and the delicate ‘Argonauts’ toy deliciously with the template. 

If ISOTM really is, as Bevan claims, "an album about the terrifying beauty of hope", it is the songs that most clearly reference its wayward influence that fortify that ambition. "What’s the point in borders?’ she sings on ‘International Waters’, rewinding through decades as she tracks Ader’s progress through the waves; attentive listeners will find themselves nourished by the (at least) double meaning. In Search Of The Miraculous is a new way of being for Desperate Journalist: a rangy and colourful artwork, less insular than what has come before, and testament to its creators’ increasingly fearless outlook.

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