Reviews:: Jane Vain & the Dark Matter

For a debut record, Calgary's Jane Vain and the Dark Matter really have a good understanding of the sounds they want to create. Love is Where the Smoke is uses minimal (although surprisingly poppy at times) arrangements that allow Jamie Fooks vocals to push to the forefront.

At the same time the band knows exactly when to jump in with well timed support the band gives to bring out all of her many strengths. It's incredibly focused for a debut and really rewards multiple listens. I know that sounds awfully PR-y, but it can't be helped.

The album opens with a chaotic spacey sample and some hushed, muffled word but the noise is stripped away and a dubbish drum machine beat and amazing string work are left to help Fooks craft her tale. From the opening line, Jamie commands a presence. I hate to jump into sounds like game comparison, but at times her voice mirrors fellow Canadian Emily Haines, but the songs are much more exciting.

While Haines relies on an focused acoustic or a piano, Fooks often lets sounds creep, warble, expand, contract around her voice to set the tone. I'm So Afraid uses more strings and a simple banged out piano, but the slow aggressive jangle of an electric guitar that grabs your attention. You sense her fear and anxiety and it builds with every powerful strum.

It's almost impossible to hear Jamie Fooks voice, especially with the slinky accompaniment her band provides, and not drift into noir-ish thoughts. Her voice, as smoke filled as a poet's bar, has the power and the delicacies the genre requires, but for me, it is the dry wit that really makes these songs work.

When the record slinks into Moving Notes, you really start to see her playful side. The poppy jazz arrangements glistens (especially the staccato percussion breakdown) and even though she's singing about a crumbling relationship she turns ear catching phrases that show she may have known this relationship was doomed from the start. "Like losing everything I thought I wanted/The song said make a choice, do you want true love or do you need my voice?" "You think you need me to look down at you with pity, but if you really need my help, I will leave you to feel sorry for yourself."

The record moves in the shadows, floating into the deepest darkest crevasses on your mind. The dark drum machine beat that bursts throughout These Ghosts contrasts the swirling textures and the result is as haunting as the title dictates. Oh Captain starts with Andrew Bird like violin picks, but instead of a whimsical looping rhythm, Jane Vane and the Dark Matter use a gradual build to heighten the tension and "get your attention."

The most amazing part is even with all the musical ebbs and flows and the sonic exploration, Fook's voice still shines through the darkness like a beacon. C'mon Baby Say Bang Bang, is perhaps, the best showcase of her voice. The song uses a collage of sounds (chimes, hand claps, percussion, electric guitar) and tempo shifts, but unlike many artists that get lost in those subtleties, her breathy delivery not only absorbs the sounds well, it stands front and center.

This record is ten-songs, and not one is filler. Blogger fanaticism aside, I think Jane Vain & the Dark Matter is going to be one of the next big female fronted acts that Canada is known for. Plain and simple. Also, it's going to be awesome having everyone thing Jamie's real name is Jane Vain.
[MP3]:: C'mon Baby Say Bang Bang

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@ 9:17 PM, Anonymous Ryan kicked the following game:

This is some well constructed music, thank you.

 

@ 10:59 PM, Anonymous matthew kicked the following game:

Bastard! I'm writing my review of this right now...you beat me by a few hours!
It's like karmic payback for Spreepark!

 

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