From the west coast sun to the north west rain, Jesca Hoop hopped across the sea a decade ago but for the first time has recorded on these shores. One country barrelling towards isolationism and separationist tenancies is much the same as another running headlong into oblivion.
Tom Waits described her as “like a four-sided coin. She is an old soul, like a black pearl, a good witch or a red moon. Her music is like going swimming in a lake at night” and she does seem to be channelling someone from the middle ages. Images of a nymph playing the lute in a leafy glade are abound on this stripped back and wonderful other worldly fifth L.P.
Recording was manned by John Parish, who also was at the controls for Aldous Harding’s stunning “Designer” LP this year, and his less is more approach allows every instrument, every note to shine on their own merits.
‘Free of the Feeling’ has a feel of the Laura Marlings’ about it, her angelic high notes and expressive floating vocals are coupled with a tempo and backing that is very like LUMP, Marling’s collaborative project with Mike Lindsay last year.
‘Shoulder Charge‘ begins with the opening riff from the Bloc Party classic “So Here We Are” but turns into a gorgeous lament, one of the most beautiful songs you’ll hear this year.
‘Old Fear of Father’ illustrates a past spent shaping her voice singing along to Joni Mitchell and Carole King, naturally forging her own distinctive style.
‘Foot Fall to the Path’ is sat in a stone circle, during a solstice, a pagan or Celtic influence. Hailing from California but residing in Manchester, England, this is the most old English folk she has done, her collaborations with Guy Garvey and Iron and Wines’ Sam Beam rubbing off. She has developed a very English enunciation and mannerism.
A slight misstep is ‘Outside of Eden’, which is perhaps a little too lacking in substance, the additional vocals of her nephew Justis Hoop Garza are quite jarring and seem out of place at times when he seems to overreach himself.
‘All Time Low’ isn’t a tribute to the dreadful noughties emo band but is perhaps the most introspective and heartbreaking song on the record, it evokes a centuries old traditional folk song that you feel you have definitely heard before. Again it’s beautiful and calming, much like the rest of the record.
Described as being an “album for these times”, and whilst lyrically it tackles weighty and relevant topics, such as reverse patriarchy (Old Fear of Father) and white supremacy (Red, White and Black), musically it is submissive and relaxed. There is no Anna Calvi or St Vincent anger or explosive passion, more a reserved, simmering desire. The intensity is lacking and if it is intended to be a ‘Time Capsule’ you could be fooled into thinking it was 1969 and everything smelt of roses.
Maybe it is meant to be the calm waters in such turbulent times, the world is a boiling cauldron of hate and no one seems particularly interested in being the moderator and peace maker; everyone despises each other on all sides.
She says herself “we are actually and truly the same …even in our differences. To understand all is to forgive all”.
Wouldn’t that be nice?!?
What it is, is a beautiful record. Which is enough, in these ugly, bitter and twisted times.