(Spinning Head Records)
Iowa act Jen Gloeckner has some pretty interesting collaborators on this new record. The promo notes suggest similarities in style with Lana Del Ray, Mazzy Star, Cocteau Twins, P J Harvey. But I played it anyway….
The chilled synths and twinkling effects of opener Vine is no shock, given the cover art and sombre packaging tones. It’s a very solemn sound.as if a sedated Stevie Nicks has been spirited away to 4AD and invited to record. The vocals sound admonishing but in a detached way. Firefly (War Dance) has a slowed-down-Cure vibe, all chorused guitar and night-in-the-woods atmosphere. A bad dream is being evoked, with a mix of electronic and percussive effects, as would befit a film soundtrack for Tim Burton…
Breathe is no less mysterious and the singing is clear and somewhat more human and inspired. Most of the instrumental sounds are coated in reverb and delay, not settling to maintain the Goth nightmare experience. It is easy to imagine Kate Bush or Tori Amos being as much an influence as, say Fields Of The Nephilim or The Cocteaus. What’s missing perhaps is the sense of inventive rhythm and funk which allowed Bowie to get away with such midnight musical atmospheres. Ginger Ale puts one more in mind of Enya with its layered voices and almost martial drumbeat. The keyboard beak is beautiful. Each of these pieces is crying out for a moody, dark-hued video. Perhaps they make them.
The Last Thought has prodding keyboard strings patch pulsing and again a layered vocal. Jen’s voice floats pleasantly through this one and it is quite haunting. The singing seems steeped in witchery. If there are singles released in this realm of music, then this is one, I venture. Blowing Through continues the cold sound but with a more traditional song melody and words. I like the flute swells but the pace is almost funereal. The twinkling guitar sounds and brush drumming contribute to impact. Is this music for Miss Faversham’s cancelled wedding?
Counting Sheep is back in the Enya style and the singing gorgeous, again in a diffuse and dreamy setting. It’s like Siouxsie awaking from a drugged stupor. Prayers has a rattly intro and hint of Euro Disco here and there. A good vocal, recorded well, Maybe the best cut on this set. The drifting ambience fights any definition or pulse. Colors hovers into earshot on a cloud of strings and a slightly more acoustic base is attempted. Jen’s voice does grow on you and this song sounds elemental.
Row With The Flow has input from John Ashton, Angela Mattson and one Henry Padovani, a man I saw play with Copeland and Sting in the original Police, opening for Spirit at The Rainbow in London, years ago. I’ve been around, me. The song has a soft roll and a less cotton wool setting. The melody is measured and sombre. Very much a soundtrack style number a la Blue Velvet or some such film. Henry’s guitar is Duane Eddie in a sulk, here. Closing track Sold again features Ashton, axeman for the Psychedelic Furs. It’s a pretty song that fades away too soon.
This album is the sound of dark blue sky filled with blinking stars and rolling clouds, too cold for me overall but not without moments of distilled intrigue and yes, beauty.
Jen Gloeckner’s new album ‘Vine’ is out now on Spinning Head Records.
For artist info and dates, head to www.jengloeckner.com
Wear something warm.