Tenci - My Heart Is an Open Field Music Album Reviews

The Chicago singer-songwriter’s debut LP appears at first to be fairly straightforward, but it quietly eludes convention and expectation, creating its own hermetic world.

Three scrapes on a guitar string. They arrive each time Jess Shoman finishes the chorus of “Blue Spring,” a song from My Heart Is an Open Field, the Chicago songwriter’s beguiling first album as Tenci. “If spring is green, then I am blue,” she sings, elongating and repeating the last word, twisting its pitch and inflection each time, sending it sailing like a paper plane on a gracefully turbulent journey toward the ground. And then the guitar scrapes, faint but forceful: chrk chrk chrk. The arrangement is minimal, the melodies oblique, placing these seemingly incidental sounds at the forefront of your attention, turning them into the song’s most immediate hook. The scrapes, and the circuitous vocal line they punctuate, express something foggy and difficult to verbalize, beyond the simple dichotomy of the refrain. “Blue Spring” is not about spring, or sadness, so much as it is about chrk chrk chrk.
My Heart Is an Open Field, which Shoman assembled with a loose crew of musicians from Chicago’s DIY scene, including guitarist Spencer Radcliffe and bassist Tina Scarpello, appears initially to be a fairly straightforward indie songwriter album. But it quietly eludes convention and expectation, creating its own hermetic world. At times the music’s minimalism recalls the hush of the Velvet Underground’s self-titled album, and at others it gives a small-scale approximation of post-rock. Shoman signals her sensibility with the first notes of opener “Earthquake,” sending crackly transmissions from one guitar to another, a moment of pointillistic interplay untethered to any particular rhythm. When the beat does arrive, it’s the familiar 6/8 of a sock hop slow dance, set to three chords that loop uninterrupted for several minutes. “Stay,” Shoman intones like a mantra, as the three chords reduce to one and the song sighs to a close.

The compositions throughout are similarly bareboned, combining stock gestures with patient repetition and moments of bracing originality. The instrumentation is sparse but endlessly inventive, forgoing any excess that might draw your ear away from the tiny details, which are paramount. A cello introduces “Blue Spring” with one repeated note. “Serpent” briefly unravels into noisy sprawl, then recomposes itself and continues as if undisturbed. A synthesizer arrives to double the central acoustic guitar figure of “Joy 2” and the effect is like sunshine appearing suddenly through a canopy of trees. Shoman and her collaborators exhibit a zen-like respect for silence and choose the sounds they use to fill it with great care, suggesting new possibilities with each palette.

Chief among these sounds is Shoman’s uncanny voice, high and reedy, with an unsteady vibrato that suggests someone very old or very young. (She took the name Tenci as a tribute to her grandmother Hortencia, who appears on My Heart Is an Open Field via a heartbreaking voicemail at the end of “Blue Spring.” Shoman says her own voice reminds her of Hortencia singing while doing chores, which is not hard to believe.) Sometimes, she uses her unconventional instrument in conventional ways, but the music is most exciting when she abandons naturalism in favor of a stranger, more expressionistic approach. “Fly fast, kiss fast, fight fast, gone gone,” she sings on “Joy,” slurring the consonants together until the words become nearly unintelligible, and the hisses of her breath and clicks of her tongue convey their own meaning. The idiosyncrasies of her singing, set to rudimentary musical ideas expressed on a small and motley collection of instruments, all work together toward a mysterious sustained atmosphere, frequently achieving something greater than the sum of their parts; My Heart Is an Open Field shares some unlikely commonalities with the junkyard blues of Tom Waits, though it rarely sounds similar on the surface.

Shoman’s lyrics are often surreal, offering resonant phrases strung together with ambiguous logic. Images repeat across songs, adding to the sense that the album is its own tiny universe: sweat, blood, skin being picked at. “You’re a dog in the window/I’m a loose piece of twine,” Shoman sings in “Hair Sticks.” Two songs later, she inverts the roles: “I can’t pretend I’m not a dog tied to a porch.” “Joy” contains a few of the best of these one-liners, which add up to a celebration of happiness as something ineffable, whose worth is inextricable from its difficulty to sustain: “The wind’s already brushed your hair”; “Make a cake, forget to eat it”; “I’m full of desire, don’t know if its mine.”

The two-part suite that begins with “Joy” is the most ambitious, moving, and fully realized passage of My Heart Is an Open Field. Other songs, like “Earthquake” and “Hair Sticks,” are fascinating, but they can also feel unfinished. There’s a tension between wanting more—the pleasant surprise of a new harmony, the power of a narrative to lead us from one line to the next—and recognizing that such concessions might rob the music of its power. “Joy” and “Joy 2” resolve that tension, tracing an incandescent arc that is neither incomplete nor conventional. The final line of “Joy” poignantly imagines an infant being carried off to bed by her mother: “Baby’s tired/Joy give her kiss goodbye.” After Shoman sings it a few times, the music dissolves into a wash of brushed cymbals and the album’s most important recurring motif: a single note, pulsing steadily.

View the original article here
Share on Google Plus

About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Tenci - My Heart Is an Open Field Music Album Reviews Tenci - My Heart Is an Open Field Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Tuesday, June 16, 2020 Rating:

0 comments:

Post a Comment