Album Review: Jenny Gillespie – Cure For Dreaming

0005648989_10The sudden intro to Dhyana By The River catches me off guard with its interesting melody that sounds almost as eastern-inspired as the name of the song. Once the song gets going, it is a rather interesting listen; no sooner have I grown accustomed to one section before the time signature seems to switch completely. In the light and airy verses I find myself rather relaxed; nodding my head in enjoyment, though unfortunately it is difficult to listen to what Gillespie is singing because of the vocal technique. The choruses bring in some great rock elements reminiscent of Tori Amos or Mylene Farmer; I begin to think, as the song switches again and starts winding down to a slow close. Despite being almost five minutes in length, it feels almost half that.

The second track begins as suddenly as the first, which makes me wonder if the songwriter has some kind of vendetta against extended introductions. No Stone brings in interesting electronic sounds with a synthesised piano; despite lacking all the suddenness of its predecessor, the song does not get boring. However, I cannot help but notice that it is tagged as “pop-folk” in the genre box, and whilst I have enjoyed what I have heard so far, I am slightly unconvinced that it is leaning anywhere near the “folk” description so far. Fortunately, Part Potawatomi begins to bring in some of these folky elements with a very much rhythm-based acoustic guitar. The pop elements are still there, but the song begins to take the album somewhere new and different from the first two tracks.

Evening Loving caught me from the slightly discordant introduction, which brings us back towards the weird themes of the album’s opener, before developing further as the track progresses. I cannot help but notice how over-produced the voice sounds in comparison to the more authentic instruments, however. Reading the album credits, nearly every member of the band seems to play two or three different types of synthesiser, which by this point is starting to become a bit too much. The midway track would be a lot more enjoyable to me if the natural instruments were more prominent and the vocals were not so overdone with special effects.

Familiar overtones abound as Last Mystery Train sweeps in with the percussion creating the sound of a howling wind over the piano. Again, however, the overt use of a vocal effect that sounds almost synthesised ruins the song a little for me. The chorus is possibly the catchiest one we have seen on the album as of yet, despite the song’s mellow nature. There is a section in the next track, Involuntary Sway, where the digital production stoops to barely noticeable on top of the vocals and percussion; I immediately notice this as the most pleasant part of the song.

Lastly, we have the thematic return to Indian spirituality with Pain Travels. The final song seems to me a summary of the journey the album has taken us on so far, and it works as a closer. The final notes are rather laid back, and the song as a whole does not create a huge finish nor is it as sudden as the album’s introduction, which is possibly the eighth tracks only failing. After the album finished, I found myself a little lost for words in trying to describe Cure for Dreaming. Gillespie’s voice is a nice one to listen to, but she does not do herself any favours by relying on special studio effects. Her compositions are good, and she evidently knows her way around a score sheet; yet the constant drone of the synthesisers detracted from this for me and made the album feel slightly one dimensional in places. There are other elements as well as the obvious pop influences; Gillespie brings in motifs from jazz and rock especially, but I struggle to see any roots in the album.

It takes more than some Asian influences and references to folklore to make a folk album, which seems rather lost in the production here. Perhaps I am being too harsh, because obviously the USA has a very different idea culturally to what makes folk music than most of us Europeans do, but I still think that the album is a pop album; not a folk, blues, roots, or even a pop-folk album. Does it show potential? Absolutely, and I would love to hear what comes next in Gillespie’s story. Is it good? Yes, very. But is it folk? Perhaps others will disagree, but I don’t think so.

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Review by Simon James Chisolm