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Jennifer Gentle - Ectoplasmic Garden Party

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Artist: Jennifer Gentle

Album: Ectoplasmic Garden Party

Label: Lexicon Devil

Review date: Oct. 15, 2003

The mysteriously-named Jennifer Gentle is not, as you might first expect, an actual person. Where the name originated, I can’t tell you, but what I do know is that Jennifer Gentle is in fact an otherworldly four-piece from Italy. This double-CD is a reissue of the band’s first two albums, self-released in 2001 and 2002. So what we have here are two rare albums by an Italian band, reissued by an Australian label, containing music from and for another world.

The first album, I Am You Are, is unarguably the more crazed and out there. “Sweet Girl, I Love You” is brain-fried blues rock jamming, a bit like early Royal Trux – raw and not pretty, channeling some pissed-off spirits indeed. Then there’s “Rubber and South”, a slow, droney piece that gathers momentum and intensity as it unfurls, and “Bring Them”, which clanks and chimes away in a drugged-out haze of percussion, pull-off notes, and dimly-heard backwards guitar drone. Jennifer Gentle definitely know how to plunge the listener into a cloud of mind-fuckery, and songs like those make the ride worthwhile.

The flip side of the first album, though, reveals a tendency to throw in slipshod songs that rely more on goofiness and the listener’s taste for sloppy, funny-at-the-time weirdness. “Always Been Together” has a thrown-together feel that doesn’t really work for me, simply a collection of silly sounds and party-awkwardness given sonic form. “Husbands” is like a beer-hall singalong recorded through a distortion pedal. Very strange.

Oddly, the album’s final song is the most unique. “Since I’ve Seen the Seas” is a slow, dreamy tune, minimal with spooky ambience, sparse percussion, and wispy vocals. It doesn’t much resemble anything else, and could have been by another band. It’s a nice piece, though.

The second album is Funny Creatures Lane, and it shows the band cohering slightly more – which is not to say that it isn’t still filled with musical mayhem. In general, the band’s overly-silly tendencies are reined in, tilting the balance toward more full-fledged songs.

The range remains pretty wide, from the opening carnival-ride of psychedelic nuttiness, “My Memories’ Book”, through raucous rock (“Locoweed” and “The Stammering Ghost”), twangy guitar and ghostly vocals, and general chaos (“Oui, C’est Moi!”). “Wondermarsh” is a highlight, boasting surprisingly pretty, drifting violin and delicate acoustic guitar. “Floating Fraulein” is a slow, melancholy piece, rather pretty and, indeed, floating.

“Couple in Bed by a Green Flashing Light”, perhaps my favorite track, puts monstrous, fuzzed-out vocals atop a tranced-out, eastern-tinged drone. It’s a long, thick, intense track. “The Wax-Dolls Parade” finishes things off with a fun, though odd, little sea-chant, like a small group of happy drunks singing in a tavern.

This is certainly a tough one to summarize, since the songs are all over the place. These albums cover a wide terrain of surrealistic sound, at times reminding me vaguely of a more rockified Caroliner Rainbow channeled through a semi-serious ’60s psych group. If that makes any sense, don’t worry – the music won’t. But if it sounds appealing, well, you’ve found your match. Enjoy the ride.

By Mason Jones

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