Jennifer Gentle Valende

[Sub Pop; 2005]

Styles: pop music
Others: Ella Guru, Robert Wyatt, Beat Happening


Jennifer Gentle's is a music of duality. A music of smoke, mirrors AND substance -- sleight of hand AND REAL MAGIC, if you will. A music of tangible unity cleaved in two by its own identity, its own historicity, its self-awareness. On the one hand springing from the line of bare-souled American purity of expression, Jonathan Richman-Jad Fair-Daniel Johnston-Calvin Johnson, bravely scared of its own metaphors. On the other, a Beefhart-schizophrenia and Scott Walker subtlety. All of this kept together with the love of measured experimentation and surrealist juxtaposition that Wyatt brought to the Soft Machine table and took away with him. Which leaves us with stale bread and a taste for inappropriate intelligence polarized by ironic psychosis.

"I do dream you" is the best example of a pop song tackling the essential humanity of the nature of belief, the relationship between the deceived and the deceiver (both internal and external), the reliance on an unstable and incomplete sense of self in the face of the Other, despite the pressing urgency of our own facility since the Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster's "I could be an angle," AND all this without even mentioning yet the brilliance of your basic subject-verb agreement going on in here. (For a full exposition of this record in light of these and other, less tangible analyses, please see the over-7000-word-record-review section.)

Is this intentional, or are we to take the paper-aeroplane delivery of the lines at face value? In the end, it's still just as strikingly in-your-face, empathetically RELEVANT to what it's like as a HUMAN BEING, that it could be either of these or countless other possibilities, and it still wouldn't matter.

Before long though, Valende leaves its naive pop structures to one side, just as delicately as it disposes of any "target-market" cynicism might have imposed on it. We find ourselves encountering songs that give themselves the time and space to breathe, build, incorporate shimmering choirs of backing singers and more layered overdubs than you can shake a stick at into the mix. Which are at times painfully trite, (chattering birds in EXACTLY the unimaginative way you've heard them incorporated 6754 times previously), but at others exquisitely unexpected, flickering in and out of perception at the edge of your hearing, coloring the air with a distinctive timbral sensitivity.

Ignoring the sympathy-vote Jazz breakdown, this is a record that should be oh-so-easy to discard, dismiss, to never pay a second thought. Yet through the accuracy with which these songs manage to connect with universalities, it remains somehow very much this side of forgettable, like those scarily-real dreams that you can't quite manage to put out of your head the next morning.

1. Universal Daughter
2. I Do Dream You
3. Tiny Holes
4. Circles of Sorrow
5. The Garden, Pt. 1
6. Hessesopoa
7. The Garden, Pt. 2
8. Golden Drawings
9. Liquid Coffee
10. Nothing Makes Sense

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