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Jessica Rylan - Interior Designs

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Artist: Jessica Rylan

Album: Interior Designs

Label: Important

Review date: Aug. 20, 2007

Her perplexing sounds and homemade synths have earned Bostonian Jessica Rylan notoriety nationwide, both as a performer (under the Can't moniker, as well as her own name) and a instrument builder (Rylan's Flower Electronics was begun in late 2006). On Interior Designs, Rylan utilized a Serge Modular synth as well as some of her own creations to concoct a series of stripped-down synthesizer tomes, rather spartan music when contrasted with Rylan's typical fare of singing, storytelling and dancing. But while much of Interior Designs is, by nature, lacking some of the overt personality of Rylan's live performances, the disc isn't without its own brand of charm.

There's an atavistic tone to much of Interior Designs; the album is imbued with a simplicity that harkens back to the nascent sounds of electronic music, echoing the past in spirit rather than nostalgic reenactment. Rylan's palette isn't crowded with unnecessary additions, and there's a sparseness to her approach that mirrors the scientific manner of her forebears, in which the music was as much a showcase of technology as any sort of artistic statement.

Given Interior Designs' uncluttered nature, the disc doesn't, however, move in a linear fashion. Single tones, ideas and manipulations are explored at length, but within these thematic constraints, the music flits and twists in unpredictable ways; "Timeless" and its crescendo from small scrapes and clatters to a full-on electronic windstorm is the only glaring exception. Even the album's title track, a rather simple duet between an acoustic guitar and a simple programmed rhythm, features enough hiccups in the melody to keep the listener on guard.

Rylan's best work on Interior Designs is her most tactile and organic, with sounds like those of "Extraordinary" that bubble and churn with a colorful vibrancy. Rylan's gifted at coaxing from her instruments squishy splats so moist one can practically feel the errant droplets of their emission and a hearty grit that’s almost solid enough to be chewed. The disc's final cut changes the album's trajectory quite noticeably, and, so nicely a synth-dominated disc, is a disappointing conclusion, bringing the listener down to earth after the three previous tracks' rich collection of quirky mechanics, but it does little to obscure the glow of some of the best music that Rylan has made, under her own name or any others.

By Adam Strohm

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