Jessica Bailiff’s first album in six years is a most welcome surprise, not just for those fans of her music but her record label too, who were apparently unaware that she’d even been recording an album.
At The Down-Turned Jagged Rim Of The Sky sees Bailiff heading in a different direction to the acoustic isolation of Feels Like Home, her previous album. Such changes in her style and sound are not uncommon and over the course of her career she seems content to allow her music to shift and change as and when the mood takes her. Over the years she’s allowed her folk roots to come through, bathed in seas of feedback, and now she is apparently floating about in a magnificent spectral haze. Gone are the folk inflections of her previous album and in their place is a shimmering backdrop of delay, loops and fizzing guitar. Taking Jagged Rim… as a whole it comes as no surprise that Bailiff has long been engaged in a collaboration with Flying Saucer Attack’s Dave Pearce. The dramatic static smog of FSA has clearly influenced this solo effort, as has the sound of Shoegaze as a whole.
This is evident right from the off, and Your Ghost Is Not Enough is steeped in dreamy ambience and subtle changes in mood. Bailiff’s breathy vocals hang in the air like tendrils of smoke, they’re barely there. It’s like Nico whispering in your ear in the backroom of a pitch black nightclub; haunting and wildly evocative. Take Me to the Sun features more influence from the Velvet Underground, this time its in the guitar tone which seemingly got bored waiting for the man and decided to head for sunny climes. There are considerable echoes of the rather splendid Dean & Britta album 13 Most Beautiful here too, as well as Dean Wareham’s work with Galaxie 500. The repetition at the heart of this piece of drone pop is vital as it casts a hypnotic spell and envelops anyone caught in its path. Once again Bailiff’s vocals are an integral part of the magic, somehow sounding detached from the song yet also possessed by it.
The organ based hymn of Sanguine wouldn’t sound out of place at a funeral with its mournful tone and almost military drum pattern. Bailiff, freed from her trance suddenly takes the form of a chanting angel of death as the song builds towards a tense, rapturous conclusion. No longer breathy, this is a breathless, spine chilling performance that occupies the space between Stereolab and Jonathan Pierce.
In similar hymnal territory is Goodnight, which marries Bailiff’s childlike verse to a tinkling piano before a thrum of electronic noise (or is it guitar?) takes over, swamping everything in bitter darkness. Also lurking in the shadows is Violets And Roses. With its repetitive circling keyboard pattern it churns away like sinister waltz, Bailiff herself is almost swamped, but retains a haunting presence on the peripheries. As the name of the song suggests, there’s beauty and danger at every turn. Closing the album is Firefly, another example of Shoegaze pop brilliance. Jangling guitars recall the tone of early Lou Reed, as elements of Bailiff’s folk tendencies make themselves known. It’s perhaps the most straight forward, least blurry song on the album, and allows the hypnotic fog to lift before the album ends, but it is by no means any less impressive for that.
At The Down-Turned Jagged Rim Of The Sky is a startling album full of nuance, menace and wonder. It may have been recorded with an air of secrecy, but it would be a terrible shame if it remains off the radar now that it has seen the light of day.