Caleb M.S. – Columnist
In my short life, I have had the extreme privilege of meeting an array of talented and interesting individuals. Nowhere near the bottom of my list is John Samuel Gerhart. The South African native, transplanted to Los Angeles, began creating music before the age of 20– working freelance, collaborating with friends, and bumming off university practice rooms and home studios. In 2020, John Samuel, known to his friends as Jase, released Hello, Goodbye, his debut album. The hour-long project pulled from Jase’s personal globe-trotting experience and drew inspiration from many of the artist’s heroes.
But Hello, Goodbye is no longer John Samuel Gerhart.
“So often, by the time music has been released, the artist has already outgrown it,” Jase wrote to me in a text message. “DEADSPACE is created differently [from Hello, Goodbye]. I made it over three weeks in December 2020 and uploaded it for release in January 2021: symbolic of my desperation to move towards the present.”
DEADSPACE is a tight, four-track EP, a contrast to the sprawling fourteen-track album from 2020. DEADSPACE also feels refined, filtered, and honed to perfection. John Samuel’s soul and psyche is on display in just under fifteen minutes– a whirlwind tour of falling, faith, and fear, but not without persistence, pensiveness, and passion.
Sonically, elements reminiscent of The 1975, or Twenty One Pilots are present—the soft piano, and ambient backing vocals on “Deadspace,” the opening track, would be at home in an Introduction to Online Relationships-era 1975 track as they are on John Samuel’s. Jase is not a thief or a plagiarizer, but an aural treasure-hunter. He curates and catalogues inspirations from artists across the spectrum, then masterfully weaves pre-existing concepts with his own to create a well-fused style I can only describe as alternative low-fi bedroom pop.
Motion is a clear repeating theme in DEADSPACE, in the musical and lyrical sense. The album relies on vaporwave-y, ambient samples to establish place in the project, but driving chords, pulsing snaps, and unobtrusive bass to advance seamlessly from track to track. Lyrics like “I’ve got to break away,” “I’m reaching out,” and “It’s never been enough,” communicate the restless attitude of a twenty-something fighting for purpose and relevance in a saturated Los Angeles. Even the track time ascends as the EP progresses. “Deadspace” weighs in at only one minute and forty-six seconds, while the closer, “Shutters,” registers at a second under six minutes. The runtimes of each track are also displayed on the album cover, a visual representation of growth.
I’ve listened through this little EP a dozen times now (I exclusively listen to the project I am reviewing while I write about it, and I make an effort to listen to the artist’s catalogue for context as well) and I have yet to tire of it. Very, very few other projects occupy this pedestal in my regular rotation. Every listen shows me a new vocal line, a deeper interpretation of a lyric, an instrumental backing somehow lusher than upon the last listen. This is the greatest strength of the project. DEADSPACE lets you dance, contemplate existence, pass out face-down on the floor, write a paper, clean your room, or converse with friends during its run and you don’t have to feel guilty about it. This EP does not demand the total focus that a project like IGOR may, or have the whimsy of a Caamp project, but you would be remiss to not allot fifteen minutes of your day to a solid listen through. Make no mistake, DEADSPACE is not a glorified compilation of elevator music—it’s fluid, adaptable, and welcomes individual interpretation. Do yourself a favor and enter the DEADSPACE.