It is almost frightening how spellbinding the collaboration between Jarboe and Helen Money is on their self-titled album, how immersed into its dark inviting depths and ravenously siren-esque shadows ears, imagination, and simply reality becomes. The release is quite extraordinary, embroiling the listener in a soundscape of harmonic drones and sonic distortion but equally a sinister beauty and psyche engulfing adventure. It should probably be no surprise the impact of the album. When you place the evocative invention, craft, and voice of Swans co-founder and former vocalist Jarboe alongside the creative dark majesty of visionary cellist Helen Money (aka Alison Chesley), something startling was bound to happen, though an understatement in the case of their album.
Neither lady is a stranger to the skills and adventure of collaborating, Jarboe having worked on over 63 projects with the likes of Philip Anselmo, Neurosis, Jim Thirlwell, Merzbow, Bill Laswell, A Perfect Circle, Colin Marston, Cobalt, Cattle Decapitation, Justin K. Broadrick, Jesu…and the list goes on, alongside her 36 solo albums, whilst Helen Money has linked up with artists such as Mono, Anthrax, Russian Circles, Joe Lally and Shellac over time. They are experiences and bold adventures which have added to their own subsequent imaginative creativity, something their album reeks of.
The delicious tones of Money’s cello is the first caress as album opener For My Father embraces ears, its melancholic voice provocatively coaxing senses and thoughts under a just as darkly lit ambience. The heavy emotional air parts just a slither for the instantly magnetic presence of Jarboe, her radiant tones instantly poetic like against the shadows and the crinkling texture of her keys. The track continues its increasingly broadening embrace as both ladies unveil further shafts of melodic light and doom lined expression through their respective skills. The song is simply mesmeric, a golden sunrise of enterprise and melodic temptation but equally a breeding of dark clouds and imposing drama. As expansive a minimalistic proposition you are ever likely to be lost within, certainly outside of the album, there is an immediate immersion into the heart of the release, external light not to be seen and felt again until the album decides.
The following My Enemy My Friend is similarly a swift fascination of noir wrapped radiance; the alluring string plucking of Money tensing the spring for the flight of intensive sonic and emotional exploration. Within seconds the instrumental is resonating through body and thoughts, the lyrical and social nudging of the first track seemingly spreading into the intimidating but seductive breath of its successor. Keys and cello create a labyrinth of haunting and ominous suggestiveness, an incitement the imagination tenaciously casts scenes with whilst emotions bow before the weight of the track’s rousing portentousness. It is meditative and unsettling, and quite riveting, a success matched by the outstanding Hello Mr. Blue.
The almost carnivorous opening of what feels like bestial bass is glorious, something to sell your soul for. Whether it is bass or a brilliant merging of keys and cello which is also possible as repeat listens twist and turn with indecision, it is an enslaving start which only escalates into a kaleidoscope of, well creative alchemy to be honest. The floating harmonies of Jarboe seduce with celestial beauty whilst Money’s cello flirts with darkly centred eyes, every note having a knowing smile to their heavy persuasion. As Jarboe unveils the warmly delivered narrative, the track in contrast becomes a brewing maelstrom of agitation and aggravation, egged on by the contagious rhythmic dance of the piece. Every track already has breached new plateaus and taken the listener into inventively denser and increasingly threatening exploits, and this continues that exhilarating success as its marches towards its controlled but vocally bedlamic closure.
Wired is pretty much what it says on the tin, its presence a fibrous mesh of sounds and sonic intrigue presenting an intensive and feverish climate for ears and a sea of opportunities for the imagination to interpret and develop further, whether through its voracious incitement or the more of a harmonic smoulder it also harbours. There is little time for those thought bred adventures to take long term root though before the intimacy of Truth inspires with its own reflective beauty. Keys and sublimely drifting harmonies soaked in an air of loneliness kiss ears first before Jarboe opens up her vocal heart in a theatre of those continuing initial croons and just as emotive guitar stabs.
It is hard with words to present the drama and emotive intensity which comes with every bewitching track and the pair’s creative ingenuity which unrelentingly and deeply works away once breaching ears, but easy to enthuse over the ever evolving experiences which re-invent themselves in sound and visceral adventure with every listen. The closing Every Confidence is a perfect example. We can only hint at the tempestuous nature and climate which seeds from and descends on the senses and psyche after an initial gentle mesmeric croon of sound, but rigorously recommend its rapacious hunger to stretch not only the listener and their emotions, but the creative emprise bred by the artists pushing their instrumental and vocal limits.
It is a challenge and success which applies to the whole of the album. It is an astonishing encounter, a scourge of everything bland and predictable in modern music which goes beyond being something merely to listen to. You feel and almost taste the dynamic and intensive atmospheres of the tracks, you breath the drama and emotional intensity of the sounds and their inspiration, and ultimately it is a journey provided by Jarboe and Helen Money which you take and will never be the same again after.
Jarboe and Helen Money’s album is available now via Aurora Borealis as a black vinyl LP, on CD and digitally.
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