Jen Gloeckner’s ‘VINE’ Reviewed
‘VINE’, Jen Gloeckner’s new album floats between ether and clouds, it permeates the space around you with eleven deeply atmospheric songs which may occasionally borrow inspirations from Beach House, Massive Attack, Kan Wakan, Portishead and even Radiohead, while bringing a mesmerizing and bold freshness.
The ambitious ‘VINE’, Gloeckner’s first new material in seven years, is a very spacious and atmospheric work, with meandrous music intertwining genres into an eerie journey, a real mind-take-over working like a cinematic rapture with trippy instrumentations.
The Iowa-based artist has previously released music through Björk’s One Little Indian Records and has recorded with top artists, including the late Hector Zazou, Joseph Arthur and most recently Psychedelic Furs guitarist John Ashton, who participate to this album.
From dream-pop to electronica, from trip hop to post-pop displaying shades of Americana, the album opens with the slow-paced title track, which right away builds an eerie landscape between Lana Del Rey’s vapors and wind chimes, haunted by Jen Gloeckner’s sulky vocals. In track like this, the evocative composition seems to embrace the four elements to design a mysterious and immersive soundscape. ‘Ginger Ale’ also brings up a Del Rey comparison with a wide-screen Enya-esque vibe when the keys collide with a powerful chorus of vocals, immediately followed by a melancholic cello. This is how dense a Gloeckner’s song can be, ravishing the listener till the end.
If every track of the album follows more or less this same ethereal ambiance, ‘Firefly (War Dance)’ is probably the most intriguing and cinematic track of the album, both tribal and futuristic, with its organic beats and fuzzy statics, the electronic instrumental could evoke everything from ancient warriors’ dance to deep space journey, and ends up to be a very captivating piece, strangely earthly despite its amount of electronica.
‘The Last Thought’ introduces a rare exotic vibe with Oriental to African influences and voices coming in circles like waves crashing on a foreign and distant shore, and more than ever this is a riveting mind trip,
Elements of pop filtrate through the album, like during ‘Breathe’, with Jen Gloeckner’s voice piercing the thick and angst-y hypnotic layers of strings and beats, playing in a vague Radiohead backyard with great control.
‘Blowing Through’, ‘Counting Sheep’ or even ‘Row With the Flow’ could sound like waltz-y glittering Beach House songs, proposing the real uplifting moments of the album, when all worries are soothed by Gloeckner’s luminous croon and poignant melodies which shine and comfort. ‘I know it’s not that easy’ is repeated like a catchy mantra during ‘Row With the Flow’, which works like a fluid and moving head trip, as mysteriously concocted as a David Lynch soundtrack. It’s interesting to note that the song also features some delicate guitar work by John Ashton of the Psychedelic Furs, and additional vocals from Henry Padovani, the original guitarist for The Police (pre-Andy Summers).
There is a pulsating element through the album, more obvious during ‘Prayers’ and its cathedral-like sound, or the harsher ‘Colors’ with its raucous vocals and throbbing mode, in total contrast with the sweetness of the two previous songs.
‘VINE’ is a very original album despite its multiple influences, the multi-layered, multi-instrumental, intricate and complex songs transcend genres and categorizations, while building a precise map for an invitation to an expected journey, sometimes only filled with surprising and beautiful sounds. It’s haunting, edgy, strangely earthy and out-of-this-world, and you certainly can get lost inside the subtlety of these lush string and key arrangements. But if you get the impression you are entering the matrix at times, or are left disoriented in the middle of vast open field, Gloeckner’s ghostly and soothing vocals will be there to bring you home.