Written By: Hayley Mierzwa
Jen Gloeckner, world music artist of much renown, has released a new record with Spinning Head Records featuring a number of guests contributing to a wide variety of sounds. Gloeckner has received air play and been reviewed in many countries. Undoubtedly, this album will achieve the same acclaim, but it comes from her own bedroom in her own hometown in Iowa. I expected (correctly, might I add) that this would be nothing short of an adventure.
The title track, “Vine,” showcases an evolution of sound through tempo, style, and instrumentation. It also introduces some laid back, low vocals from Jen, a style that will pervade the whole record.
Moving into the second track, I was sure I was hearing an Asian flute, which seemed to slowly fade, oddly enough, to electric guitar. Which was it? I’m still not sure. “Firefly (War Dance)” was an interesting listen that also evolved over the course of the track, definitely falling into a place of electronic chaos. The following track, “Breathe,” was certainly a different, more sensual experience. Not only were you hearing breath-like tones, but the lyrics invited you to see and feel the song as well (“Feel the groove of the waves”).
As I moved to the next track, I wished that there were lyrics published somewhere online. Not only was I curious about previous songs, but I just had to figure out what a song called “Ginger Ale” was going to be about. In the end, what I got from it was that it sounded more like a war song than “Firefly,” as it features a steady march tempo kept by snare, which enters around the 1:15 mark. Also noteworthy was the use of strings in this piece – something I personally love to hear incorporated into modern music.
After a few more nods to Asian influence in “The Last Thought,” the album hit a low energy spot for me, with a slow, jazzy percussion base and nothing that I found particularly of interest vocally. Moving on to the track “Prayers,” you get a moving bass line to take you away from the sweeping feeling of the previous songs. Once or twice I got worried that the vocals in this track would drag us back into that space, but moving lines and an unexpected percussion entrance around the 3:30 mark signaled a clear departure into a completely different style; however, it would not be maintained for the remainder of the album.
“Colors” left something to be desired, and “Row With The Flow” fell right back into that lazy swing. Of note on this track, you get a voice so low as to almost sound demonic that comes as a surprise after Gloeckner showcases her already impressive low range. The album ends with “Sold,” which, thankfully, steered clear of the swing. It was arguably as close to pop music as the record got, but was a very pleasant way to close things out.
Although I wished for more variety of style in a “world music” record, I have to say that this is a worthwhile listen. Gloeckner’s composition skills are the star of the show. Layers and layers of instrumentation are always unfolding and making you question what it is you’re hearing. I’d love to know whether or not “Firefly” actually featured Asian flute or if it was just a brilliant trick, and hopefully some lyrics will be posted in the future so I can revisit this album and get a better understanding of each song. “Vine” is a daring record, intellectual and challenging in all the right ways.