I don’t know about you but I don’t dream much (my dreams are rare visitors consisting of terrifying scenarios involving the Inland Revenue). But listening to her new album, Vine, one imagines that Jen Gloeckner always sleeps very well and wakes to the sound of birdsong, with motes of dust dancing in the dawn rays. Her new album is the very definition of ‘dreamy’.
It’s ethereal soundscapes are constructed from gossamer layers of sound, and sculpted into fragile melodies. Floating fragments of synth, violin or guitar coalesce around her haunting voice. The song structures are only loosely present – just as a chorus begins to solidify it dissipates like a rare gas – but what stops this from being a Clannad-style coffee table album is the brilliant production (by Gloeckner herself, in her bedroom). She recognises that perfection can be tiresome, and creates flaws to offset the smooth surfaces.
There is not much in the way of rhythm other than a slow waltz on a couple of tracks, but the occasional drum break is allowed to surface from the depths of the mix before being gently suppressed. On opening track, Blowing Through, Gloeckner is rehearsing in an empty church with a flautist and a violinist, when a drum & bass fan drives by with the windows of his BMW wound down and Korrupt FM cranked up (that’s how it all sounds anyway). Row With The Flow inserts a second male voice behind Jen’s soft croon (this turns out to be founding member of The Police, Henry Padovani, thank you for asking). As the song progresses the male voice morphs until he sounds like Leonard Cohen gargling sand. It’s restrained but disturbing – less Enya and more David Lynch.
Jen’s own voice is reminiscent of Alison Goldfrapp but without the attitude and it’s difficult to know whether she’s a truly good singer or just a well-produced one. Her lyrics, though not the focus of attention, are well-crafted and hit the sweet spot between intellect and pretension. One standout track, Prayers, she muses on God and science “when a man walks on the moon, does he still say his prayers?/when he’s way up there?”. It reminded me of Sandra Bullock floating in space so I tried playing the track while watching the trailer for Gravity, which worked perfectly.
In the moment, Vine is utterly beautiful, seeding a series of images in the mind which evaporate as each song ends. As the album ends, I surface as if woken, feeling content but unable to remember anything but fragments. It’s lovely and addictive and I want to replay it. Like a dream.
Jen Gloeckner’s Vine is out on Friday 14th April and you can find out more here.