on 19 July 2009
This is perhaps the finest thing I've ever heard. It's beyond special, it's completely singular. It's easy to be hyperbolic about music like this that mesmerises and reaches down right into your soul, but I seriously can't remember anything better than this. All comparisons should be thrown out the window, although a decent reference point would be Nico's Marble Index. It's not as difficult and extreme as Nico's masterwork, but it has a similar hermetic desolation that resonates long after the music has finished. You can carve Jesy Fortino's name in stone, because of this one sequence of music. It's always best to avoid the word 'genius' wherever possible, but sometimes it seems unavoidable. The first four tracks on the album are as perfect a distillation of desolate melancholy as you will hear, and form a reasonably straightforward and accessible introduction to Fortino's vision, albeit with that peculiar and memorable lower range that she has, utilised alot on 'Dreamer' (it sounds like she's singing into her neck). But things become slower, longer, more experimental at times (the close of 'time takes', 'young god' and 'twilight property' display this avant garde side of her vision). Mostly the album is just Fortino and her acoustic guitar and plenty of reverb. I would not describe the album as gloomy, though, despite the intense sense of desolation that pervades. It feels more like a series of secularist hymns, an hour-long solemn meditation on existence. And it is truly mesmerising. Each time I listen it casts its spell on me anew, and lingers on in my mind for some while afterwards. Let's be clear: this has nothing to do with folk music, nothing to do with nu-folk, this is completely apart from everything. The only piece of music remotely close to this might be Matteah Beam's 'Death Of The Sun', but it's really on a different level from that. Like I said, comparisons are best avoided. Just be aware that this work is nigh on monumental in its quiet and minimalist way. If very few are willing to recognise and understand this, then that does not make it untrue. Discover this (relatively) obscure masterpiece now.
on 30 July 2009
Tiny Vipers, a.k.a Jesy Fortino, plays music for a certain state of mind. At the risk of sounding utterly pretentious, that mind state is one of an introspective melancholy.
Jesy's music is simple - just using a lone acoustic guitar, vocals and that incredibly useful tool - reverb. She picks her strings very deliberately and rarely resorts to full on strumming. The melodies are sparse and delicate and just creep up to the edge of prettiness then break away again before she reveals too much to the listener. She has a Neil Young-esque twang that is confusing at first but becomes part of the charm of the overall vibe of the record.
Life On Earth has one of the best record covers I've seen in a while - not because it's eye catching or original or even technically brilliant - but because it captures the very essence and soul of the album.
It is a simple photograph of Fortino looking windswept and almost forlorn, it has blurred forms in the foreground and sparks from a fire spitting upwards and struggling against the wind. The sky is a dappled grey. The title is in a tiny, inconspicuous font in white above her head. There is nothing better that they could have done - because the album sounds like the cover art and the cover art looks like the music.
We see Jesy alone in the middle of the image as it's just her inside the record - you feel as though there is nobody else for miles around apart from you, looking from where the image was taken. But she's slightly blurred and windswept and out of reach. The lyrics represent this as they are thought provoking and very visual but quite impenetrable. As do the melodies - they are there but they're so sparse and subtle it's hard to glean anything from them. I find this so intriguing that I just keep listening to it over and over It's perfect for this time of year - Manchester in Autumn. Grey, yet filled with life.
Life On Earth is such a baffling record for me - half of the tracks break the six minute mark and the title track cracks ten minutes. All just acoustic picking and vocals. With such a lack of obvious melody the whole thing should scream of dullness but it doesn't, there's something about it that makes me return. Maybe I see it as a challenge - to extract something, anything from it's such familiar, yet alien elements.
Jesy's voice is warm and the reverb accentuates it but when she sings louder there is a coldness creeping into the edges of her voice. Like a warm jet of water suddenly frozen in the air whilst the reverb carries it's ghost into the distance. That feeling of melancholy permeates everything about Life on Earth.
Yet it is still quite impenetrable music and as I've mentioned, it's unignorable lack of traditional melodies will put off a lot of people. It's music for a state of mind - for a grey day in Manchester. It's music that takes you to that shot on the record cover. And when you get there it slowly transforms, without perception, to the bright orange of the sleeve that holds the CD inside.