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Spiritualized frontman finds new inspiration

After battling pneumonia for nearly six months, Spiritualized principle Jason Pierce felt lost.
/ Source: Reuters

After battling pneumonia for nearly six months, Spiritualized principle Jason Pierce felt lost.

Before he went into the hospital, he’d laid down a good chunk of what would eventually become his sixth album, but finishing it proved a challenge.

“It’s very difficult to work on something again that you didn’t intend to,” Pierce says. “It didn’t seem contemporary anymore. Not musically, but where I was in my life.”

That changed once he met filmmaker Harmony Korine (“Kids,” “Julien Donkey-Boy”) at a Daniel Johnston show in London. Backstage, Pierce and Korine struck up a conversation — and a friendship — that would lead Pierce back into the studio to work on the score for Korine’s next film, “Mr. Lonely.”

“I was completely lost when I came out, and I had this record that sounded like a collection of songs that made no sense,” Pierce says. “By working on his record, which is just about sound and atmospheres, it put me in a place where it bled into my record.”

Pierce now finds himself with two releases this spring. The score to “Mr. Lonely,” recorded under his moniker J. Spaceman, was released April 22. Pierce contributes nine cuts, with the rest of the tracks by avant-folk trio Sun City Girls.

Meanwhile, due May 27 via Fontana/Universal is “Songs in A&E.” (A&E is the abbreviated form of “accident and emergency,” what the United States just refers to as “emergency rooms.”)

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“Songs in A&E” contains six melodic bridges between the actual songs. Although a majority of the material was written before his hospital stay, “Songs in A&E” reflects Pierce in a rather delicate state.

He has always been a firm believer in questioning human relationships alongside the entanglements of love, religion and death. But the music reflects a less abrasive Spiritualized — feedback and heavy reverb have been replaced with softer arrangements, highlighting violins and acoustic guitars, ultimately casting Pierce’s voice in an almost angelic-sounding warmth.

In the States and the United Kingdom, Spiritualized has gathered a feverish cult following. A hefty U.S. tour is planned for July through September, which will be Spiritualized’s first stateside trek this decade.

Pierce says he’s happy that his hospital stay accidentally led him in a new direction. “It was great to be with someone as crazy and focused as Harmony, at a time when I had neither,” Pierce says. “It was hugely liberating to be in the studio where I was working with music, but I didn’t have to front it.”