To many, Canada is considered the land of the frozen north, and for people who did not grow up here, adjusting to our country’s cold landscape can be very challenging.
Producer and multi-instrumentalist J Tilley moved to Canada when he was thirteen, after spending his childhood in London, England. Naturally, he had to acclimate to Canada’s frigid weather. Like many of us, he found warmth passing the hours making music.
Though Tilley’s musical roots were formed in the UK when he started learning guitar, he found his love for music closer to the age of sixteen, when he bounced out some original tracks on Cubase. His artistic journey kept him in Alberta, Canada, where he became the frontman for the alt-psych outfit CHEF and lead guitarist in the punk-funk group Klusterfunk.
This was only another checkpoint on Tilley’s path to finding his most honest expressive niche, however, which I am informally defining as a sub-genre called ‘Neo-fi’. His first single of 2022, “Half Full”, was released on January 5th under his new moniker Sktches.
Truly, Sktches couldn’t have chosen a better time to put out a feel-good energy into a feel-fucked world. His instrument choices are plain proof that years of fronting alternative projects can pay off in full when an experienced composer dedicates their talents to solo production.
One defining characteristic of his new project is the distinct absence of recorded vocals. When asked about this new direction, J declared “I hit the mute button on my vocals and it sounded more complete. At that point I realized that I could say what I wanted to say much better in an instrumental capacity than I could with my lyrics.”
J’s distinguished talent wielding the electric guitar is undoubtedly the result of his years studying Guitar Performance at Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton, Alberta. Ironically, his start-up label—which is debuting his single—is called “Doubtful Sounds Records”. I’m not sure if “doubtful” is the best way to describe Sktches sound choices, but I for one am excited to see where J goes with his start-up label and his certified guitar skills.
“Half Full”, is like a Sunday morning coffee warming your bones while you watch your window panes slowly drip from melted frost. Tilley’s drum choices resemble the iconic production of Ontario-based producer Verzache, while his sample work and instrument mixing—to me—resemble the styles of Montreal’s HOMESHAKE.
It’s fascinating to recognize that each of us are merely a product of our influences, and the sum of our surroundings. I would venture to say that J Tilley’s approach to music is a refreshing take on everything he has witnessed and absorbed in England and Canada. Luckily, Canada’s slippery roads and frosty windshields didn’t keep Sktches from mastering his newest brain-child, “Half Full”. Here’s to the beauty of home studios, and countless more “sketches” to come.