Original Issue: 2007 Strange Attractors Audio House (SAAH049) Buy it here!!!
Margot-meter: 4,5 moons / 5
Tulsa, Oklahoma native Jes Leneé’s prematurely world-weary and timeworn vocals may betray a maturity beyond her years, but they also possess a damaged, little-girl-lost quality that suffuses her songcraft with a ghostlike, almost spooky ambience. Her lyrics, however cryptic and ambiguous, are nonetheless conveyed with an anguished candor that reinforces the music’s supernatural affectations, and while she frequently sacrifices profundity for abstraction, Leneé’s nebulous lyrics suit the tone of the music, which has a distinctly antiquated flavor to it. Her voice is expressive, but conversely yearns to convey something inexpressible, as on the beautiful and somewhat distressing “Red,” with its simple yet devastating melody and ominous lyrics.
Ezra Moon, Leneé’s debut release under the name Autumn Shade, illustrates the manner in which an album’s whole dynamic can be altered entirely by its production, and in keeping with her band’s moniker, there is an autumnal, almost gothic quality to these pieces, redolent of gray skies, wet leaves, and wood-smoke haze. The record’s opening instrumental, “Sparrow,” features a delicate piano figure that, with its slightly out-of-tune character suggestive of a creaky upright piano from an Old West saloon, ultimately dematerializes and dissipates as if into a cloud of dust motes. Leneé’s lyrics and plaintive, minor-key chord progressions convey a wistful sense of melancholy that, coupled with the record’s atmosphere, pack an additional emotional wallop. Ornate piano melodies are a testament to Leneé’s background as a classically trained musician and add a subtle hint of color to a generally sepia-toned affair.
Reduced to their constituent elements, which generally include little more than vocals, guitar, and piano, with the occasional violin and hammered dulcimer flourish, the frugal arrangements of these tracks are fairly straightforward. But the filigree production from Derick Snow infuses the music with something spectral and sometimes icy cold. Snow’s production also serves to emphasize the broad dynamic range of the instruments. This technique is manifest on the incredibly haunting “Spanish Willow,” which features a vibrant and animated acoustic guitar line that makes Leneé’s subtly reverbed vocals sound even more spectral and otherworldly, as if those of an apparition beckoning from beyond this mortal coil. Other shorter, more piano-driven tracks act as interludes that showcase the singer’s impressive dexterity on the keys.
Stark as these pieces are, they make amazing use of space; in between guitar strums or the deftly keyed notes of a piano we find ourselves paying attention to the lingering ambience, which seems informed by an earthy resonance. As if to even further emphasize the importance of space, atmosphere, and the visual aspects of Autumn Shade's music, Snow doubles as a live painter on stage. On the whole, Ezra Moon is an exercise in subtlety. Trim and succinct, these 12 tracks showcase the abilities of a talented, budding songwriter, and leave us waiting in earnest for more.
Autumn Shade is the nom de plume of Jes Lenee', a stunning young songstress brimming with unbridled talent. Armed with a satchel full of pensively beautiful tunes, Lenee' possesses a voice as pristine as any your ears will have heard in this lifetime. The fact that Lenee' calls Tulsa, Oklahoma home only adds to the mystery, for her music is much more aligned with the astral plane than anything resembling the Okie Plains. Lenee' is a classically trained piano prodigy, who at the age of eleven was penning songs that won award recognition. Ultimately seduced by the craft of songwriting, Autumn Shade is a marriage of her piano prowess and folk-inspired guitar strumming, imbued in a heady ambiance and enveloped in some of the most heavenly, intimate vocals to have come down the pike in some time.
Formed in 2002, the band self-releasing an EP entitled Grandfather's Attic, which caused a stir in the Tulsa and Midwest area; in the live setting, the band incorporates painter Derick Snow, who creates his pieces on stage, allowing the moods to dictate the whim of his creations, lending a tactile visual element to the music. Set to splash with their full-length debut Ezra Moon, Autumn Shade has concocted a fascinating foray into an ethereal, yet emotionally raw netherworld.
Ezra Moon is a journey into a unique sepia-toned microcosm, one that intertwines folk, chamber music, psychedelia, avant-rock and indie singer/songwriter. Opening with the wispy "Sparrow", a delicate piano interlude softly fluttering in and out of focus like a foggy memory, the misty landscape spills into "Home", a folk-inspired lament driven by acoustic strumming and Jes Lenee's yearning vocals. Colored by additional instrumentation of violin, hammer dulcimer and percussion, and a healthy penchant for sonic experimentation, the narcotic, detached feel of Ezra Moon is reminiscent of albums by the female artists that helped define the 4AD sound. Jes Lenee's classical roots and compositional sense invoke the avant-chamber feel of Rachel's, if they were enveloped in the hazy folk atmosphere that Marissa Nadler resides in. Ezra Moon is an entrancing debut, inaugurating Autumn Shade into the contemporary folk scene with an understatedly personal and cinematic sound.