Tenci - A Swollen River, A Well Overflowing Music Album Reviews

Tenci - A Swollen River, A Well Overflowing Music Album Reviews
The second album from the Chicago singer-songwriter Jess Shoman brings in the band for a noise-country-ish sound that both spotlights and strengthens their vocals.

Jess Shoman’s 2020 debut album as Tenci, My Heart Is an Open Field, was an indie-folk record that pulled you into an entirely empty space. It moved in slow, cyclical waltzes, bleeding with the unrushed freedom that follows a forfeiture of hope. Shoman and their bandmates stamped the songs with echoes of clomps and clacks rattling into an open room, and they frequently repeated passages several times just to see how it would feel. All of this drizzled around Shoman as they sang in brief snippets as surrendered as “I can’t pretend I’m not a dog tied to a porch” in a voice like warped wood. The album sounded, often sonically and occasionally lyrically, like it was made at the bottom of a well—an image that Shoman returns to repeatedly on Tenci’s fuller, more hopeful second album, A Swollen River, A Well Overflowing.

My Heart was Shoman’s breakout moment as a songwriter, and A Swollen River is foremost a triumph for Tenci, the band. Even though Shoman was almost always accompanied on My Heart, whether by light drumming, woodwind accents, or near-unrecognizable sounds, the album felt solitary through and through; now, Shoman sounds reinforced. Their three bandmates—bassist Isabel Reidy, multi-instrumentalist Curtis Oren, and drummer Joseph Farago—have formed a taut circle and cultivated a noise-country-ish sound that both spotlights and strengthens the vocals. The band sounds remarkably in sync with each step and turn, exhibiting the chemistry of a quartet with rare innate telepathy. Shoman, meanwhile, alternates between serenely reflective and totally vicious. “I’m as quiet as can be,” they rasp on “Be,” and then growls the last word again: “be.” What follows is a captivating sax solo from Oren that perfectly matches Shoman’s messy contemplations on their own visibility or lack thereof in the eyes of another.

Reidy, Oren, and Farago hang back as often as they step forth, resisting the easy “folk artist’s ‘full band’ sophomore album” trap and allowing Shoman’s talent for harnessing silence to flourish and grow. The band’s discretion paired with Shoman’s gift for commanding attention toward an isolated word or phrase recalls some of the defining indie-folk artists of the ‘90s, like Bill Callahan and Chan Marshall. On the mostly acoustic “Great Big Elephant,” which sounds like it was recorded on a remote driveway and follows “Be” with brilliant contrast, the accompanying touch is barely detectable yet just enough to add a sense of grandeur. Even when the band inches towards eerie-nursery-rhyme territory for a couple of consecutive songs in the album’s middle section, they still manage to hypnotize, so that the impending fireworks explode even louder.

And when those arrive, they don’t hold back. On the epic “Sour Cherries,” the band slowly crescendos to a droning, discordant hailstorm, while Shoman breaks out one of their best moves: meditating on a few words over and over in a rotation of voices ranging from anodyne to demonic. “Love is sour cherries,” they repeatedly sing, each time finding a different emphasis and character: “Love is sour cherries/Love is sour cherrries/Love is sour.” The song kicks off a string of highlights to conclude the album, peaking with the guitar-squeal-rich “Two Cups”—a soaring, charmingly odd self-affirmation that feels like the album’s nucleus, and one of Tenci’s best songs yet—then dismounting with the Polaroid-like “Memories,” a pocket-sized folk tune laid over a medley of home recordings from Shoman’s childhood. As Shoman sings about holding onto their memories, behind them is their father pushing them on a swing, their mother warning her children about bugs as they stick their hands in a tree, and Shoman as a child trying to read a birthday card from their grandparents in Spanish. With an increased brightness and confidence in their voice, surrounded by family chosen and unchosen, Shoman has never sounded less alone.

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 - A Swollen River, A Well Overflowing Music Album Reviews Tenci - A Swollen River, A Well Overflowing Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on November 16, 2022 Rating: 5


Post a Comment