Before you meet SJ Esau, you're going to have to forget a few things you haven't yet learned. For instance, that at the tender age of 10, he was halfway through a four-year rap career in the burgeoning late-'80s Bristol scene. Erase from your memory the image of a young Samuel Wisternoff (as he's known to his mother) with microphone in hand, freestyling with 3D from Massive Attack at a local party. Forget that it was Tricky who turned the scrappy little lad onto the great adventures of Slick Rick. And that under the name TFP, Sam (still 10 years old) and his older brother were signed to Smith & Mighty's prestigious Three Stripe artists. Most importantly, put it out of your mind that before retiring from the rap game at 12, Sam battled his way to second place in the cutthroat DMC emceeing championships.
Though Sam still has the tape that started it all”a hip-hop mix his father made for him, culled and compiled from the John Peel show”his pre-pubescent life might as well have been someone else's entirely. SJ Esau, as you'll now know him, is a master manipulator of organic sounds, a singer with a sense of humor and an ear for the beautifully bizarre, and a maker of expansive and explosive ventures into the unexplored musical back alleys of Great Britain. His corner of Bristol is a rarified junction where bedroom rambles and aural collage meet inspired collaboration and true song. It's more Pavement and Low than De La Soul, though his love for all three is no doubt equal.
While his brother Jody went off to pursue dreams of becoming a world-renowned deep house DJ/producer (see Way Out West), SJ Esau was busy carving out the most unique of existences for himself. Through a number of band incarnations (for instance, the Sonic Youth- and Pixies-inspired outfit, the Pudding), various solo explorations (from raw acoustics to layered noise works), and ongoing collaborative projects (the harsh, loop-driven Onanist Homework Robot & the Guano Ignoramus; as well as the prettily apocalyptic Jeremy Smoking Jacket with singer Rose Kemp), SJ has developed his own carefully constructed brand of chaos which neither repeats itself nor spins wild beyond the realm of comprehension.
With three and a half SJ Esau LPs under his belt (and Stop Touching My Cat, a compilation of reworked SJ originals featuring WHY? among others), Wisternoff brought his impressive body of work to Anticon in 2007, releasing the internationally ballyhooed Wrong Faced Cat Feed Collapse that spring. In 2008, he returns with Small Vessel, threatening to once again change what we think we know about the man and his music. Of course, some constants have remained throughout: Sam Wisternoff still lives in Bristol, and is surrounded by a still under-publicized community of hard-working artists poised to start a revolution in sound. He has two cats (who occasionally provide backing vocals), admires the works of Kurt Vonnegut, and is usually confused, which seems to work out just fine for the rest of us.