A glimpse into her weird world
Solo artist Jarboe loves to venture into the unknown. The former vocalist and keyboardist of the indie rock band Swans has been experimenting since setting off on her own, but her music remains steeped in trademark soothingly haunting sound. Illusory arrives in perfect timing, a tranquil moment in an uncertain world in disarray from recent events. This album just might be the perfect medicine for restless times such as these we find ourselves in now.
The seven songs on Illusory flow together in a single stream of consciousness. They are soothing and meditative, though bordering on monotonously repetitive at times. Illusory is more refined than earlier work like Sacrificial Cake, but some of the earlier magical spark is lost, and this album feels perhaps more watered-down.
“Illusory” has a gentle feel, like swimming in the pulsing waves of the ocean. It contrasts with “Arrival,” an otherworldly song bringing a vortex of sound into existence, with minimal light percussion and digital programming. Its mesmerizing rhythm is quite interesting if not a little drawn out. The chant-like vocals seem to yearn to know more about the self, digging at deeper spiritual truths.
“Cathedral” opens with an angelic voice reverberating through the hall of a cathedral. The eerie and beautiful feeling intensifies with the introduction of an a capella chorus of angels singing indistinguishable lyrics. Jarboe’s classical training shows in this piece.
In the vein of Enya, Loreena Mckennitt and Björk, “Flight” creates a feeling of movement. Unlike all of her counterparts, though, Jarboe takes us on a journey into the weird and creepy without bringing us back. Until, that is, “Into the Arms of Sleep,’ which is a very relaxing, soothing song that is easy to get lost in. Jarboe’s signature hauntingly beautiful a capella vocals begin the song, like a serenade by a chorus of angels. The song moves slowly like a sunrise. It is a great song to induce meditation.
“Nourish” has an instantly mischievous start and an otherworldly traditional folk feel that is conveyed by hand percussion and a modal scale. This song is hypnotic at best, and tediously repetitive at worst. It really sounds like a track from a video game or the menu screen of a DVD movie. There are great elements, but it goes on too long without changing.
“Man of Hate” is a withdrawn composition with a dark story to tell. It has the sullen feel of music by Radiohead. As the last song of the album, it seems to dissolve into the empty space that follows it.
Through a cohesive collection of synthesized sounds woven into a harmonious web, Jarboe proves again that she’s never afraid to try something different. This album is pleasing in its trademark tranquil, sweet softness and spiritual questioning. Illusory is a good tool for meditation and brings a bit of comfort in trying times.