Nick Bollinger lends an ear to the science-fiction, folk and electronica of Jane Weaver.
Have you ever heard of Jane Weaver? I hadn’t, not until I heard this just recently.
As it turns out, she has almost two decades of albums behind her, of which this isn’t even the latest.
But as an introduction it turns out to be pretty good.
Originally from Liverpool, Weaver is a singer-songwriter, though with some quirks that distinguish her from most of the genre.
She started out singing in bands I have never heard of, but since the early 2000’s has been recording under her own name, developing a style that’s both familiar and unique. The first thing that strikes me is her voice. At times it seems like a classic English folk voice, pure and untutored - only the electronic settings of tracks like these can make it sound like a stranger in a strange land.
But Weaver has many uses for that instrument of hers, and a song like ‘Argent’ might be some medieval hymn, an effect that is accentuated when she double-tracks herself to create eerie unpredictable harmonies which keep building over eight minutes.
Delve back into Weaver’s early records and it’s the folkie singer-songwriter that comes to the fore, with the emphasis on her voice and acoustic guitar. But as you can hear in a track like ‘Argent’, with its almost Can-like rhythm, she has been moving increasingly towards both electronica and a kind of European 70s-style rock.
The title The Silver Globe pays homage to an obscure Eastern European sci-fi movie, and without having seen a frame of the film I sense its influence. The songs are linked together like scenes in a movie, and while I couldn’t be sure there was a coherent narrative, they do all seem to revolve around some kind of scenario in which romantic exploration and cosmic travel are intertwined.
Space for Weaver is likely some sort of metaphor as it was for David Bowie who described his apparent obsession with space as ‘an interior dialogue… my little inner space… writ large’, adding that “I have absolutely no interest or ambition to go into space whatsoever. I’m scared going down the end of the garden.”
At times Weaver’s voice seems to have been set adrift in an almost purely electronic environment – lost in space - but this record rocks too, particularly in a track that is built around a sample from pioneering British psych-rock band Hawkwind. ‘Star Cannibal’ was the title Hawkwind gave to the 1982 track, which Weaver has effectively cannibalised to create her actually superior song ‘The Electric Mountain’. Her melody is way better than that of the original, but the guitar and synth riffs are unchanged and give the piece much of its driving momentum.
At other times, as in ‘Stealing Gold’, she reverts to her acoustic folkie mode, though sonically she still seems to be playing through a cosmic haze. The track is gorgeous, as is really the whole of this strange, seductive sleeper of an album. First released almost four years ago, it’s just been reissued in the wake of Weaver’s more recent album Modern Kosmology, which as the title might suggest, continues with the science fiction theme. I’d start with The Silver Globe, though; at least that’s been a good starting point for me. And from there you can go in any direction you like. As Jane Weaver knows, the cosmos is a big place.