February 04, 2005

Jennifer Gentle "Valende"

Less than a month into the new year and we've already got the winner of the "What the Hell Was THAT?" award for weirdest record of 2005 goes to Italy's Jennifer Gentle. They are making their debut for Sub Pop (and the rest of the world, essentially) with Valende, a record that defies easy any comparison to anything heard all year. Yes, I know, the year's barely five weeks old, but after giving their record a spin or two, I still can't tell you anything about them except the obvious: they are WEIRD.

But they're weird in a good way. They take their name from Pink Floyd's "Lucifer Sam"--one of Syd Barrett's masterpieces--and that fact answers about 99% of any questions you may have about this curious band. What's that, you say? Of Montreal? Olivia Tremor Control? Elephant 6? Let me tell you something--and I never thought this would be possible, but it's true--all of those bands have now been rendered useless imitators and failed usurpers to the Syd Barrett throne, because Marco and Alesso are the two-headed, two-faced personification of the best Acid trip vision Barrett ever had. At times such visions are exciting; some times they're horrifying. All in all, though, Jennifer Gentle's soundscapes are never less than mind-bending.

Really, though, there's so much going on within the confines ofValende that it would be futile--and detremental--for me to try to explain or reveal all of the record's secrets. Bells and whistles and silly voices and all kinds of unclassifiable things pepper the record in a nice way. Stylistic-wise, the music runs a course from thrashy psych garage-rock ("I Do Dream You") to trippy, dreamy folk-pop ("Circles of Sorrow") to joyous blasts of unknown weirdness that will make you smile with each and every listen ("Nothing Makes Sense"). Don't think the rest of the record stops there, because it doesn't; each song is a different journey into a bent, psychedelicate mind, and combined together it makes perfect sense.

Yes, Virginia, there are still uniquely weird bands, and Jennifer Gentle is definitely one of them. Valende is a welcome blast of oddness that stays fresh with every listen and never becomes anything less than enjoyable with each successive listen, and is perhaps the best musical find of 2005.

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.jennifergentle.it
Label Website: http://www.subpop.com

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