Jesy Fortino’s greatest achievement with Life On Earth, her fourth release as Tiny Vipers, is the creation of an electroacoustic ecology that allows the listener space for contemplation and thought. The follow-up to 2007′s breakthrough Hands Across The Void offers a departure from traditional song forms and conventions, presenting instead an album with a distinct flow and coherence between almost every track. A Seattle native, Fortino infuses Life On Earth with an atmosphere of wide open spaces, water-logged landscapes and grey skies. Layers of sound lend a depth to her music, a sense of quiet beauty. Many of her songs are quite sombre. Not melancholy, only thoughtful.
Fortino credits producer Andrew Hernandez for creating an album so different in interpretation than the last. Life On Earth was recorded in an analogue studio in Austin, Texas after the singer had spent time touring Europe and America. The collaboration between artist and producer aimed to create an album as authentic and organic as possible. This is mostly achieved, and it is often hard to tell where one song finishes and the next begins, giving the impression of a long and arching piece of music. One exception is ‘Time Takes’ which upsets the flow of this album somewhat, and is the track most faithful to past triumphs on Hands Across The Void. It is no less astute or lovely, but stands out by virtue of a rhythmic drive that is not really found elsewhere on the album.
‘Eyes Like Ours’ has minimal instrumental presence, only Fortino and odd notes on her guitar. The vocal provides much of the backbone of the song, rising from a slow and low-slung melody to a strong, reedy beauty in the final lines. The lyrics are not immediately discernible; Fortino uses her voice like an instrument, emphasising the multitude of sounds it can make. Eerie whistles bring ‘Development’ and ‘Tiger Mountain’ to a close, while ‘Twilight Property’ has an Eastern feel with a pentatonic melody blended over metallic percussion. ‘Slow Motion’ and ‘Dreamer’ are lyrically stronger, lamenting change and the shifting nature of feelings as Fortino ponders the inability of some things to be described or understood as definitives.
In a recent interview with New York’s Decider Magazine, Fortino said of her new album, “I’m not trying to get a point across. I’m just trying to put the pieces together to make a song approach a feeling. There’s a lot of uncertainty.” The songs of Tiny Vipers are soothing and contemplative and Life On Earth is a special album. Fortino is about to embark on a long tour around the United States and Europe, playing various venues around the UK and Ireland in early September. If Life On Earth is indeed true to her live performances, anyone going to see her would not be disappointed.
[Sub Pop; July 6, 2009]
Tagged tiny vipers