Jordan Reyne – Mother (2014)

coverJordan Reyne’s recently released Mother, the second EP in her “Maiden Mother Crone” trilogy, an examination of the role the ancient archetypes play in modern narratives of women. Unlike Crone, where the songs were held together by spare, darkly industrial vocal loops, on Mother Reyne’s bought her acoustic guitar to the fore.

But that doesn’t mean it’s an album of pretty folk-style guitar picking. Because when playing in this mode Reyne’s guitar figures are repetitive, simply altered chords that slide into each other to form a sound that is reminiscent of the drone of a bagpipe. Over this Reyne layers her Celtic-tinged vocals, full-throated, alternatively seductive or sinister, Dorian-scaled. With some basic acoustic percussion adding a counterpoint the end product is a sound that feels as ancient as the roots of the mountains, yetcontemporary and vital.

In the five songs on Mother, Reyne takes us through the journey of her character, beginning with ‘Don’t Look Down’, where the mother croons sweetly, defiantly to someone (her child, one assumes), that she’s going to save their life, because “no one can do this alone.” As more vocals are layered on in loops, the song becomes insistent, almost triumphant, a cry of certainty.

Which almost immediately crashes into reality in the second song, ‘The Ever Afters’, where the mother discovers the betrayal and pain that comes when a beloved (the father?) moves from the “happily” to the “every after.” “Then came the day you smiled to the smell of new perfume,” Reyne snarls, “don’t touch me, don’t touch me.” Her voice constricting with venom, while the guitar drones and the percussion thumps, as the Mother realises she’s surrendered her childhood hopes and dreams for the love of someone who no longer needs or wants her.

The Mother’s tale as told by Reyne is a harsh one; held up to criticism by a world that feels entitled to judge her, an object for men to observe as they make deals with the mythical ferryman to forever journey between duty and vice. Someone who feels the pain and sadness of a world into which they’ve bought new life, only to see the men who hold power do nothing but further destroy it.

The EP’s closing track, ‘Rulers of Men’, is a short, heartbreaking coda as the Mother reflects on all the promises made by men to fix the world’s problems, political and environmental. “Then they watergated wires to stop the questions and the talking,” laments Reyne, before concluding with a sorrowful lament that her boy is burning, right in front of her, the Mother. Powerless. Outraged at the deceit.

Mother is yet another powerful collection of songs from Reyne, hypnotic, enthralling, emotion-full music, and a powerful statement. Together with the Crone EP, Reyne has now put out, on a very limited budget and with little but social media for promotion, ten of the best songs she’s ever recorded in her career. And with Maiden due to also be released before the end of the year, taken together the three EPs might form together to make one could be one of my favourite “albums” of 2014. I’m looking forward to the third instalment.

Mother can be purchased, both for digital download and on CD, from Jordan Reyne’s Bandcamp page.

Beer match: Smokey, celtic-tinged, deceptively complex. Sounds to me just like the Tāne, from Herne Brewing. I recently had this off tap, and it’s great served that way as well as from the bottle I tried before its official release. Keep an eye out for it. Even better, listen to some Jordan Reyne while you drink it, the match really works!


Jordan Reyne – Mother, Maiden, [CRONE] (2014)

I’m a huge fan of Jordan Reyne. Ever since encountering her while I lurked on the outskirts of Wellington’s alternative and goth music scene in the 1990s. Her singing has long enraptured me, a powerful, soaring, Celtic-tinged voice, capable of evoking heights and depths of emotion, sensual or terrifying.

coverShe’s just released her most recent collection of songs, the Crone EP, the first of a trilogy of EPs titled “Mother, Maiden, Crone.” Collections of songs about how women are perceived at different stages of their life, starting off with with the crone, the invisible woman ignored by a society that no longer values her appearance.

Mother, Maiden [CRONE] contains five songs, all built from a core of vocal harmonies, Reyne’s voice is layered and looped, used as the primary rhythm and accompaniment while she sings the lyric over and around. There’s some looped percussion with a tribal feel on a few of a tracks, a bit of low rumbly synth and a bit of guitar texture, but mostly it’s just Reyne’s stunning voice.

‘Dear John,’ the opening track, features what might the most sweet and soulful vocal Reyne’s ever recorded. With gentleness and warmth her character sings to a man, a guest, invited into her home, a pretty major-progression vocal riff flitting above a beguiling vocal. But, as the song progresses, it becomes revealed that the invite is more an acknowledgement that the man is there to take from the woman and the other guests what he wants to taste, without acknowledging the source of the feast.

As this is revealed, Reyne starts to constrict her voice, a palatable menace seeping into her singing, before she releases and lets the voice soar, revelling in beauty as the character seems to be revelling that knowledge of her situation gives her power over it. A stunning opening track, quite unlike anything I’ve heard before from Reyne.

In ‘The Shadow Line’ Reyne’s back to Celtic-mode, with deceptively complex percussion underlying the close-harmony vocal loops with Reyne repeating the phrase “I won’t see red.” Until, by the song’s end, where the girl she sings of has aged and been stripped of even of her name, the refrain becomes “I see red”. You can sense the anger and determination in every syllable as Reyne’s voice soars towards the conclusion.

‘Servitude’ creeps in with menace, with percussion, vocal loops and synth building, slowly, surely. Close-miced, this is Reyne at her most threatening, constricting her voice to convey the threat implicit in the character she’s singing, a man – a religion? – who offers hope to women but only rewards them with subjugation. And here, Reyne does that thing she does quite unlike anyone else I’ve heard, letting her voice loose as the song reaches its climax, sending it soaring, to dizzying heights. Harmonising with herself, discordant and complex, hair raising, very sinister, very stirring.

A video’s been made for ‘Servitude’ (see below), and I’d recommend not watching at night by yourself. Very creepy, very disturbing, and a very good example that a cheap video made with one camera, a projector and good make up can be just as effective as any big-budget thing.

‘Turning from the Light’ follows with a sombre vocal loop sweeping the narrator along as she sings of her weariness but of refusing to accept the comfort of the “inimical light.” Before the EP comes to a close with ‘Dishonour Among Thieves’, another masterful example of how looped vocals can let important words linger and meld together following phrases and concepts, to bring together as a whole an indictment and an incitement to resistance against “the men who won’t be blamed.”

This is a profoundly good collection of songs. A quintet bound together by layer upon layer of Jordan Reyne’s incredible voice, charting a progression from the sweet to the sinister. Strong, confident songs, strong and confident lyrics, encompassing extremes of light and dark.

It’s probably been sixteen years or so since I first heard Reyne sing, and I feel that she’s probably singing better on this EP than she ever has before. And her song writing is just getting better with age, too.

I’m very looking forward to the Mother and Maiden EPs being released soon.  But, in the meantime, you can buy the EP from Jordan Reyne’s bandcamp page, along with all her other albums.  I recommend them all.

Beer match:  Parrotdog’s “Sleuthhound”. A Scottish ale / wee heavy version of their Bloodhound, this one’s rich, sweet, darkly red, with a hint of smoke.  For some reason thinking of Reyne’s Celtic-tinged, at times smoky voice and red hair made me think fo this.  Odd how my brain works.


Postscript: I’ve just learned that ‘Dear John’ is aimed at John Key, New Zealand’s Prime Minister, the privileged man taking what he wants from others, invited to a dinner where it turns out the other guests are his food.  Excellent…