New York-based, composer and cellist, Clarice Jensen’s* new album, Esthesis, consists of seven compositions. Each takes its title from a principle emotion outlined in the Zhou dynasty text, The Book Of Rites. The set was conceived, pre-pandemic, as a concert piece. The advent of Covid put paid to that, and meant that the music was reshaped. The titular feelings / sensations now refracted through the additional lens of isolation. The tracks travelling from Liking through to Fear. The former’s central refrain repeats faster and faster, the resulting drama increasing incrementally, mirroring the Penguin Cafe Orchestra’s playful experiments with minimalism. This is countered by the hum of a dark, rumbling synth. I guess tempering its title with uncertainty. The latter is a suitably spectral, sinister, sheet of sound that pairs low drone with high-pitched piercing frequency. Sadness is also appropriately melancholic. A cinematic synthscape, whose machines manufacture an almost human vibrato.
Anger is an abstract ambient atmosphere, constructed from looped readings, taken from a letter to Nelson Algren, written by Simone de Beauvoir. Poetic prose, where the Existentialist / Feminist icon explains to her lover a frustration driven by a thirst for freedom. These words, however, are cut-up, and collaged. Broken down to their constituent vowels.
Built from bowed and treated cello, Disliking, becomes a blurred, dream-like drift. Totally hypnotic. I guess that hate is something you can get lost in. On the other hand, there’s no denying Joy. Here, Clarice is at her most accessible. The pretty piano patterns – performed by Timo Andres – cascading. Summoning a celebratory proclamation. Ringing like the peal of church bells.
The long-player’s finale is Love. “Powered by pipe organ” would be a nice bit of alliteration, but these keys are most definitely not pumping. Their melody more slowly emerging from a woozy, wobbly, musical mist, tailored from tampered with chimes.
Clarice Jensen’s Esthesis will be released tomorrow, on 130701.
*There`s a lovely clip here of Clarice talking about the sorely missed Jóhann Jóhannsson.