Jennifer Gentle - Biography
According to Wikipedia, the town of Padua claims to be the oldest in Northern Italy. It’s a picturesque city founded by a 12th Century Trojan prince, and apparently Galileo Galilei taught at its university. More recently (in late 1999), a couple of young musicians decided to break buck the musical trends of their post rock peers to start a band that fused an enthusiasm for 60s psychedelic with art rock and garage punk. The result was a truly innovative group (with an evolving cadre players) that kept true to their roots while creating an exciting blend of retro psych pop and experimentalism.The band got the name Jennifer Gentle from a Syd Barret lyric out of an early Pink Floyd song, “Lucifer Sam.” Though the influence is ever-present in the songwriting, the sounds and in Fosolo’s whiney, demonic vocal approach, the result always manages to sound fresh and original. So it’s not surprising that after releasing two LPs and a blistering live album, this group of musicians from the historic town of Padua became the first Italian band to be picked by Sub Pop, toured the world and earned their niche in the worldwide indie pop psyche.
The band’s debut album, released on their own label, I Am You Are (2001 Silly Boy), is a charming, oddball collection of mischievous psychedelia, awash in reverb, fuzz guitars and wonderfully demented vocals. The songs and the instrumentation are quirky and eclectic, with folky flutes, accordions and riffs that go off on tangents. The second LP, Funny Creatures Lane (2002 Silly Boy), is a heady, mixed bag of tricks — almost nothing is exempt from being employed as an instrument here, and the result is a highly enjoyable and raucous, psychedelic bash. The shambolic “Locoweed” has Fasolo’s echoey vocals, a playful harpsichord and bandstand drums evoking a demonic tea party. The repetitive swirl of “Wondermarsh” is distortedly sweet, dreamy and lovely, like a pool of melted candy. Somehow, the wildly disparate vocal approaches on this record manage not to sound contrived but just as if Fasolo happens to be a creature from several different worlds.
Jennifer Gentle have toured extensively in Italy, the UK, North America and even China. The Wrong Cage (2002 A Silent Place) is a live album recorded when the band toured Italy with Japanese avant psych guitar guru Makoto Kawabata of Acid Mothers Temple. It’s a mighty performance, and one of the highlights is “Bring Them” (from I Am You Are), a swirling, atmospheric masterpiece with a classic folk guitar theme and a heavy drone enhanced by Kawabata’s screeching guitar theatrics. The first Sub Pop release Valende came out in 2005. The album features Fasolo’s reverb-drenched, freaky vocal personas, wailing violin and drunken melodies with a lot of Syd Barret weirdness and a bit of T-Rex bombast thrown in. The British Invasion is an omnipresent backdrop, but the band sounds as fresh as can be with an ever-increasing experimentalism; this is definitely a coming of age record for them. Directly after the departure of Gastaldello, Fasolo recorded The Midnight Room (2007 Sub Pop) solo in his own Ectoplasmic Studio. It’s a more challenging but no less rewarding listen. Although it’s more subdued than its predecessor, it’s also a much darker record. It opens with “Twin Ghosts” a thoughtful, sing-songy drone both eerie and touching, like a slowed-down lullaby. “Telephone Ringing” is both playful and nightmarish, which is the paradoxical mood that seems to underlie this album, featuring both heavy, dramatic, episodic compositions and dark, mocking little ditties.
On its heels followed the sprawling Sacramento Session 5 of 3 (2008 A Silent Place), an extremely limited gatefolded LP on colored vinyl, which is a live recording of a long piece written for a radio session. Also following that year was an EP, Evanescent Land (2008 Heron). The most recent LP, Concentric (2010 A Silent Place), sees Jennifer Gentle forging a way into more brooding and abstract territory. Using only analogue technology, Fasolo still manages to create loose, trippy impressionistic sound collages enhanced by Mos’s saturated keyboards and Gilchrist’s genuinely odd beats. It’s probably the most abstract record to date, (and all of the songs have one-word titles) but the band’s signature sensibilities remain: psychedelia, avant, folk, and surrealism all rolled into an intense, dreamy amalgam. It’s arty, but it’s also rock and roll, and what comes across most tangibly is the band’s loving obsession with the influences that shape them. But they’re not just a sum of their obsessions -- maybe coming from such an exotic place also feeds into their art. Whatever the reason, Jennifer Gentle are astute purveyors of a gloriously original take on psych pop and, more broadly, on contemporary indie music.