Jesca Hoop — Kismet
(Columbia 82876 74700 2, 2007, CD)
Jesca Hoop — Hunting My Dress
(Last Laugh Records LASTL001C, 2009, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2011-06-01
I missed this extraordinary songwriter's debut back in 2007, but when I heard her second effort I immediately sought it out. Kismet is a stunning entry into what might be called the Eccentric Singer-Songwriter genre. Her bio mentions a connection to Tom Waits (nanny to his kids), and that actually provides a good comparison. While her slightly twangy, clear voice is about as far from Waits as you can get vocally, the music shows the same kind of quirky theatricality as Waits, with unconventional percussion and twisted-cabaret backing. She starts out strong with multitracked vocal harmonies kind of like an alt-country interpretation of Kate Bush. The backing grows to include acoustic guitar, mandolin, electric guitar, drum kit, and tape-loop strings (Mellotron or Chamberlin). Those are the elements featured in most tracks, though the balance between them varies quite a bit, from the minimal (just acoustic guitar and vocals) to more elaborate (adding reeds and so on). The oom-pah (and oom-pah-pah) beats lend the air of Kurt Weill, but the atmosphere is infused with the mist of subtle distortion and quirky detours.
Hunting My Dress continues and refines the style while increasing the folk-ballad quotient and decreasing the Weill factor. Her vocal harmonies provide a luscious cloud on which to lay your ears and float into the sky; the backing parts provide the perfect anchor with their hints of earthy darkness. "Four Dreams" is a masterpiece of warped acid folk, with interlocking acoustic guitars, distorted slide guitar, processed vocals and percussive noises. The US reissue of Hunting My Dress includes an EP featuring two of the tracks from Kismet, plus an acoustic version of "Intelligentactile 101" and two otherwise unreleased tracks — certainly non-essential, but you don't pay extra for it. Hoop is definitely a talent to watch.
Related artist(s): Jesca Hoop
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