All things beautiful are destructive, too, and musician Jen Gloeckner provides a taste of both in “Mouth of Mars” (2009), the long-awaited follow-up to “Miles Away” (Gloeckner’s debut album released in Europe through One Little Indian Records UK in 2005). MOJO Music Magazine in London has described Gloeckner’s sound as “spell-weaving…different, dark, ethereal, funky; an alluring big-sky, small-room mystery.” As in “Miles Away,” Gloeckner home-recorded “Mouth of Mars” in her bright orange upstairs-bedroom-turned-studio, and its “big-sky” themes are evident in more than the album’s title. Her new release is an instinct-driven exploration of primal emotion, where minimal lyrics and layers of sound evoke a universal, gut-level knowledge of desire, separation, and the sacred connection of souls.
For better or for worse, Gloeckner’s music seems to say, this is the human condition as revealed through sound—raw, dirty, brutal, healing, serene, and sacred all at once. Gloeckner describes her artistic inspiration in connection to moods and images that she receives in dreams, and her fans, too, perceive a kind of mythical, collective-unconscious underlying the music that she creates—songs that can be as unrelenting as your darkest nightmares and as redemptive as your purest desire. Gloeckner is indeed a fearsome seductress—masculine in her lyrical directness and often aggressive, driving rhythms, yet at other times as delicate with longing as a Victorian on a fainting couch. Like “Miles Away,” “Mouth of Mars” has coherence in the tightness of the oppositions it balances, and Gloeckner appears again in the persona of an ancient goddess whose scythe clears the field with one hand while it heals with the other. Pick your poison; Gloeckner’s intensity will not release you from its grip.
Attesting to this is the growing recognition of Gloeckner’s powerful sound and unique appeal within the US music industry. After releasing “Miles Away” through One Little Indian Records in 2005, Gloeckner received rave reviews worldwide in several major music magazines including MOJO Music Magazine UK, Classic Rock Magazine, and Blitz Magazine in Portugal. In 2006, the late French musician and record producer, Hector Zazou (Bjork, Suzanne Vega, John Cale, Jane Birkin, etc.) heard Jen’s song “Only 1,” and contacted her to record vocals on a song for one of his upcoming releases. Zazou traveled from France to Jen’s home studio and together they recorded his rendition of the old French pop song “O’Biche Oh Ma Biche.” In 2007, American artist Joseph Arthur heard Jen’s songs on her MySpace site and was intrigued. This led to Arthur appearing on two tracks of Jen’s new record: “Die” and “Sleep to Dream.” At the same time, acclaimed record producer, Brian McTear (Espers, Apollo Sunshine, BC Camplight, Danielson, Woven Hand, etc.) heard tracks from “Miles Away” and requested to collaborate with Jen from his Miner Street Recordings Studio in Philadelphia on what would eventually become “Mouth of Mars.” In the winter of 2008, Gloeckner traveled to Philadelphia where McTear mixed 15 of Gloeckner’s home-recorded songs and in the process, introduced Jen’s new work to Espers cellist Helena Espvall (Vashti Bunyan, Bert Jansch, Espers), who fell in love with the tracks and played on several songs for the new album including the title track “Bailing Water” and “Come In My Garden.” Canadian electric violinist Joel Zifkin (Rufus and Martha Wainwright, Emmylou Harris, Townes Van Zandt, Elvis Costello, etc.) also contributed to several tracks on the new record.
Gloeckener continues to write and record music from her home on the shores of the Mississippi, which cuts through the heart of the America and situates Jen quite aptly on the brink between light and dark, dream and wake, destruction and healing. From little room to big sky and back again, we await “what dreams may come” to this intensely powerful young musician.