JÆ: Balls And Kittens, Draught And Strangling Rain (Hubro Music)

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Posted on Jan 27th 2011 01:13 am

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Jæ: Balls And Kittens, Draught And Strangling Rain


Balls And Kittens, Draught And Strangling Rain
HUBROCD2508
Hubro Music 2010
10 Tracks. 43mins25secs

Amazon UK: CD | DLD Amazon US: CD | DLD

Somewhere between the über delicate introspective pop of Susanna Wallumrød and the wonderfully pastoral folk of Alela Diane is Dutch-born singer Jæ, who currently spends her time between Amsterdam and Oslo. Jessica ‘Jay’ Sligter studied music at the conservatories of her native town, Utrecht, and, later, Amsterdam, but it is in Oslo that she recruited the musicians who were to bring this album to life, by hanging around the Norwegian Academy of Music and progressively getting acquainted with members of the improv scene.

Jæ’s music is essentially folk-infused, but the rich arrangements and breadth of instruments used (Jæ herself plays guitar, melodica, piano, flute and recorder, to which are added, amongst others, percussions, strings, brass, mandolin, harmonium, musical saw, ukelele) give this record a much broader scope. It is a times as if a full orchestra, albeit one that doesn’t follow any conventions but its own, was setting up camp in Sligter’s living room, while at others, the ensemble accompanying her is so discreet that it almost totally disappear.

But these songs would be nothing without Sligter’s earthy voice and her slightly bitter-sweet lyrics. Her vocal performance is beautifully restrained throughout, filling each song with just the right amount of emotion. Right from the opening line of Adam’s Place, it is difficult to escape the appeal of Jæ’s delicate timbre, her words carried like paper boats on a stream to land exactly where they need to be. The melodies are never quite as straightforward as they appear, yet these songs flow elegantly, underlined by subtle touches which give them each an identity all of their own, from the classically-tinted vocalise of Red Around The Eyes or the heart warming harmonies of Jim’s Place and Song Came From M. to the exquisite dialogue she maintains with a musical saw during Reverse and I Still Owe The Morning, the latter sounding quite like a late night jazz club standard. With its understated mandolin backdrop, Over, The White Snow is easy to dismiss, but its graceful rendering and its wonderful violin motif toward the end, make it a particularly touching song, while  the quietly sweeping chorus of Gentle Friend contrasts greatly with the wandering verses.

Originally released last September in Norway, Jæ’s stunning debut album is now being given a full UK release. The fifth release from Norwegian imprint Hubro, Balls And Kitten… is a truly poetic and enchanting record which can only but steal the heart of whoever happen to stumble upon it.

4.7/5

Jæ (MySpace) | Hubro Music
Amazon UK: CD | DLD Amazon US: CD | DLD | iTunes: DLD

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