Music Review – Rena Jones “Indra’s Web”

I’ve been a Rena Jones fan for a few years.  If I remember correctly, I was introduced to her via the excellent compilation album “Beneath The Surface”.

I have to admit, there is a lot of electronic music I’ve bought online where I just listen to it and don’t remember who is who, or what album is by who, it all becomes a blur.  This has nothing to do with the quality of the music, it’s more about the format, and the fact that I will enjoy listening to an entire album without looking at a song title – most of which are hard to remember when you are talking about instrumental stuff anyway.  Also, you are buying something without a package, not like in the old days when you had a 12″ piece of cardboard reminding you of who was who, and you read that sleeve over and over while listing to the music.

But some bands do stick out in my groggy mind, and Rena Jones did, so I bought the next album, and then this newest album, although it’s hardly new, it’s just new to me.  I’ll be honest, also unlike the old days, I don’t need to know shit about an artist to like their music.  So it was only until I decided to review this album that I bothered to google “Rena Jones” because I wasn’t sure if this was a persons’ name or a band name.  It turns out it’s a girls’ proper name, if you can’t be bothered to Google her, just go to her site http://www.renamusic.com.  She’s a violinist and cellist who programs and produces, and she’s from Portland Oregon, none of which surprises me, but I also wouldn’t have been shocked either if Rena Jones was a male producer from Poland, none of that matters as much as the music, which is why I rarely google that stuff anymore.

This is a review of the new album but it might as well be a review of all her albums.  I like them all for the same reason, they all have a similar style and certainly are all top notch.  Go buy them all, you won’t be disappointed.

What does “Indra’s Web” sound like?  I hate to use the term “trip hop” but that would be a reasonable point of reference for a lot of people.

It’s downbeat music with deep ambience, but although this album has dubby production in places, (what doesn’t these days), I wouldn’t call it electronic dub.  I think some of her earlier stuff was dubber.  When I first heard Rena Jones, I was getting into a lot of glitchy instrumental bands, and in my foggy mind Rena Jones was a part of all that.  Although I must say, it’s easy on the ears – the point seems to be interesting songs with inventive arrangements, not to challenge the listener to some kind of glitchy cut up assault.

It’s light glitchy electronic drum tracks with soaring violins and deep cellos.  There are violins and cellos on all her records, but they are more prevalent on this one, and that’s a good thing.  There is break beat influenced programming that isn’t excessively ‘IDM’ jittery, but certainly isn’t four on the floor Basic Channel style.  It’s relaxing, sometimes soothing, but still very driving music.  Melancholy pervades most of these tracks, it almost comes with the territory of wielding a violin.  It’s instrumental music although vocal washes do add texture in places.  Tracks like ‘Ordinary Day’ with light simple vocal elements sound similar to Fennesz.

Violins take the lead but synths are next in line and the programming is not just to back up the strings, Rena Jones is no slouch with sound design and programming.  Overall I must say, the production suits the music perfectly.

I always love the mixing of acoustic instruments with electronics, and I like players who put composition above showing off their chops.  Rena Jones hits the mark on both accounts.  If someone is an accomplished player it really brings something to electronic music, unless of course they wankers.  Rena Jones – great player, thankfully not a wanker.

The choice of sounds shows a depth of understanding and respect of this kind of music.  Sometimes great players enter a style without knowing where it’s been and this is often revealed by their poor choice of sounds.  Although I wouldn’t call this album dark (perhaps moody would be a better description), it certainly has no cheese or new age trappings that music like this can easily fall into.  Good judgement is even better than good programming I always say!

If you like this album, you might also want to check out Bluetech.  I will eventually get around to reviewing their better stuff, if ‘they’ even are a ‘they’ – could just be a male producer from Poland.  I will review Saltillo next for sure – more violins coincidentally.  I’m going to guess they are from an artists commune in Scotland.

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