I was prepared to completely write off Jasmina Maschina as unnecessarily lugubrious, overwrought dream pop with little substance to back it up, but I had to change my mind at least slightly upon hearing “Forgotten Wood”, this album’s third track. The beautifully evocative guitar arpeggios which open the song and provide the bulk of its depth truly resonated, enough that even Jasmine Guffond’s ridiculous technique of muffling the vocals as though they were coming from under water couldn’t totally ruin what made the song effective for me at its start.
Still, it’s hard to really enjoy Alphabet Dream Noise because it’s almost deliberately obtuse in its arrangements. This could be a solid album of offbeat acoustic pop, but Guffond insists that she’s got her finger on the trigger of a “brave expedition into a musical dreamland as yet unknown”. While much of what this album offers is relatively inoffensive electronic-inspired pop, it’s hard to get excited about music which is all but certain to put most uninitiated listeners to sleep. However, there are also standout moment throughout the album. “Sun” has a decent vocal hook, reminiscent of Kimya Dawson when she was still with the Moldy Peaches. “Retrospective Hallucinations” wakes things up somewhat by inserting synths at the start which merge with acoustic guitar José González would love, and Guffond restrains her vocals to light background echoes over the melody. This track, in particular, shows what Jasmina Maschina could be when the music is allowed to speak for itself rather than depending on trite, overwrought descriptions of how ahead of the curve it supposedly is.
I’m not convinced that Alphabet Dream Noise is a great album. It’s not even a great album within its own genre, its creator being too obsessed with telling us what the music’s about and failing to allow the album speak for itself. Still, for every moment I wanted to simply give up and write this album off as a waste of time, there would be a glimmer of hope that something truly amazing was buried deep in the morass. For that reason I’m glad I gave the album time to percolate. This isn’t easy listening, but if you can make your way through a few listens to the full song-suite, there’s more to Jasmina Maschina than immediately reaches the ear.
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// Notes from the Road
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