(Spinning Head Records, released Fri 14 April 2017)
There have been at least six years between each of Jen Gloeckner’s albums to date, and it’s a distance that is palpable not only temporally but sonically, as well. From the Mazzy Star and Alanis Morissette signposts on her 2004 debut album Miles Away to the Portishead and Massive Attack throwbacks discernible on 2010’s Mouth of Mars, Gloeckner has left a breadcrumb trail of influences along the way.
With this latest release, she’s moved further than ever into experimental, psychedelic trip-hop terrain that’s all her own. At times light and bouncy, at others luxuriously languid, Vine is consistently transporting throughout. With much of it being written, recorded and produced in her bedroom, it’s astounding how she manages to weave such complex melodies from a back-to-basics set-up. Indeed, the best listening results will be obtained with a quality set of headphones or speakers, in order to catch all the harmonic nuances that have been painstakingly stitched together.
The album opener and title track starts off as Gloeckner clearly means to go on, guiding us slowly by the hand into another cerebral plane, while second track Firefly (War Dance) takes us into darker, more animalistic territory as a throbbing backbeat is accompanied by eerie reverbs and rhythmic grunting. The tone is then immediately lifted with gradual builder Breathe, which provides a treadmill platform for one of the album’s fluffiest tracks, Ginger Ale. Last Thought follows without a pause for breath as we bounce along on a dreamlike melody, before the forgettable pairing of Blowing Through and Counting Sheep lose the thread slightly.
Not to worry, though, because Prayers come sailing in to the rescue, at times jarringly powerful, at others liltingly tranquil. It’s not just difficult to nail this album down as a collective work; it’s tricky to know where you are even with individual songs. Colors and Row with the Flow seesaw from the psychedelic to the sugary, before album closer and strongest track Sold leaves us as an album like this should – disorientated, exhilarated and thirsting for more.
Impressively arranged and with an irresistibly haunting voice underpinning it all, Vine lacks cohesion at times, and seems in danger of becoming lost in its own dream world on occasion. However, it’s another giant step forward to an artist clearly keen to continue innovating, and represents a vital listen for any adventurous music fan keen to break away from increasingly humdrumified airwaves of British radio.