Snaking away from the indie pop accents of her debut Hands Across the Void, Jesy Fortino aka Tiny Vipers releases her second full-length album on SubPop and risks her folk inheritance to higher spheres: an immense step up.
The first play of this sixty-four minutes record will most certainly leave the hearer at a loss to tell one song apart from another, or to even discern any sort of conventional pattern in the composition of the eleven tracks. But if you think this sounds boring, the young viperidae from Seattle may prove you wrong.
Her influences include Townes Van Zandt, Neil Young, Nico, and Micheal Cashmore, and yes, from its mere primitive shape to more experimental ventures, the folk spirit quietly walks through the full length of the record. It is nevertheless difficult to label Life On Earth as a folk album, unless you think of it as a distorted and elongated entanglement of Joni Mitchell’s “Tin Angel” and Melanie Safka’s “Pebbles In The Sand“, remixed by Aidan Baker in a “Green and Cold” fashion. She inherited the almost medieval austerity of the first’s earliest works, the proto-Joanna Newsom-esque vocal figures and untechnical spontaneity of the second, and the surprising neo-classical approach to grimy contemporary pop of the last.
Yet, few comparisons will let you grasp the full horizons of Fortino’s Earth.
Only a long and worthy intimacy with her voice and minimalist guitar will help unravel its uncatchable personae and ever-changing sceneries. From the disarming introduction lyrics, “Do you remember when the world was still young…” in “Eyes Like Ours”, and the airy timelessness of “Dreamer”, to the nihilist sense of emergency and confusion of “Outside”, she ushers you through an imaginary mythology for an imaginary people, a lost volume in-between the Bible and the Verda; she tells you about death and ghosts, about the origins and future of the world, and of otherness, but, at the same time, through some fascinating and unaffected trick, leaves you the serene and immobile witness to the nearly organic attachment to memory, to the doubts and fears, and fascination for the beyond, to the unbearable self-consciousness and isolation of a thousand individuals, whose faces become blurred as centuries are swept by around you. If “Cm” sounds like a recess and is more in the traditional style of her early songs, the darkness and deconstructed frame of the following tracks, and especially the sinuous sine waves of “Twilight Property” will only hit you as a more fatal blow. There is no poison distilled in this nest of vipers though, only a miracle recipe of how to turn casual yet mysterious singing and songwriting into a mesmerising and modern ambient work.
Undoubtedly, Life On Earth is not an easy-to-share experience, but if it has not played a special part in your Summer already, it is high time you gave it a special place in your life, for it is a true and very secret gem.
Listen to “Dreamer” (MP3) on Sub Pop.
Buy Tiny Vipers “Life On Earth” on CD or digital release from Sub Pop Records.
Visit Tiny Vipers’ MySpace.