John J. Presley  New album ‘Chaos and Calypso’ due October 20th via God Unknown Records

John J. Presley New album ‘Chaos and Calypso’ due October 20th via God Unknown Records

25th September 2023 0 By Jon Deaux

Brighton-based multi-instrumentalist John J. Presley returns with a new album ‘Chaos and Calypso’, due October 20th via God Unknown Records. Following a period of activity in May of this year, John broke a three-year hiatus with the brooding, hypnotic single ‘Sinnerman’ (a collaboration with friend Laura-Marty Carter from Blood Red Shoes), and live shows with Radiohead’s Philip Selway and Gaz Coombes (Supergrass).

‘Chaos and Calypso’ features the first new music from Presley since his debut album ‘As The Night Draws In’ in 2019 and the vinyl-only lockdown release ‘Albany Sessions’, which were both released to great acclaim, with Q Magazine calling the album ‘…a bold, striking debut’ and a nearly perfect review in Rolling Stone France. Presley’s music is hard to categorize but that is its strength – from folk blues noir moments to tasteful post-rock walls of sound, – classic songwriting to improvised, experimental moments, Presley is constantly creating a tapestry that will engage, challenge and inspire.

Presley plays guitar, bass and pedal steel on the new record and is an in-demand player too – Nadine Shah, Duke Garwood, Laura-Mary Carter, Juanita Stein and Smoke Fairies have all had him join their lineups.

A diary piece that echoes a period of ill health, of spiraling vertigo and misdiagnoses, ‘Chaos and Calypso’ shows Presley’s trademark guitar tone in full effect with enough space in the mix to weave in a new palette of textures from drum machines and synths throughout. The first single ‘Sinnerman’ featured The Invisible’s Tom Herbert (a hugely respected player on the London Jazz scene with Shabaka Hutchings, Beth Orton’s band, London Brew (with Shabaka) etc) on double bass and was recorded with Ian Davenport at Courtyard Studios with additional vocals come from Laura-Mary Carter (Blood Red Shoes).

Across the album’s twelve tracks, Presley tackles a wide breadth of musical and lyrical themes throughout the vast landscape of ‘Chaos and Calypso’. There’s ‘Sea Of Deserters’ with its utter dissatisfaction felt at the current political climate; “the utter disgust and frustration in the powers that be. Sheer entitlement of some individuals, and the mess many have left behind for future generations. Selfish, unparalleled, uneducated greed,” explains John and you can clearly hear the raw frustration in his voice. The anger is amplified by the squealing clarinet and soaring horns by legendary British musician Terry Edwards (who has performed with a great variety of artists, including PJ Harvey, Nick Cave, Gallon Drunk, Lydia Lunch, Tom Waits etc).

Then there’s ‘Hold The Ties’, which finds Presley following a stream of consciousness, recorded late one night at Courtyard in a trance-like state, the song and feeling swelled in the moment, with some beautiful double bass playing again by The Invisible’s Tom Herbert.

‘Into The Fire’ again demonstrates Presley’s musical dexterity, inspired by his long drives through the Sussex Downs to London, the song was recorded live with John playing pedal steel and singing at the same time. “I love the ambiguity and resonance of a pedal steel, it’s a serene instrument,” he says.

The album closes with ‘The Sequel, a song that John says is about “all about hypocrites. I’ve encountered a few in recent years. Preaching one thing and really living another.” He expresses this annoyance by trying to create the most jagged and distorted sound he can generate with an amp and fuzz box. It’s an earth-shattering end to an album that successfully takes the listener on a thrilling trip of feelings and sounds on the ‘Chaos and Calypso’. 

‘Chaos and Calypso’ track-listing:



Sea Of Deserters


Those Three Words

Delicate Thread

Hold The Ties

Into the Fire

The Sequel


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