Jessica Bailiff: At the Down-Turned Jagged Rim of the Sky

Recorded at her home studio, Jessica Bailiff's latest collection threads her haunting voice into nine fully fleshed-out if brief settings. The style of the music is less delicate folk-pop than gothic dirge—off-kilter incantations that suggest ties to shoegaze and even grunge in their crude wall-of-sound production design and fuzz-toned arrangements. On the concise forty-one-minute collection, Bailiff complements her distinctive singing with dense backdrops built from bass guitar, electric guitar, organ, piano, cello, and drums.

Hazy electric guitars give “Take Me to the Sun” oomph while the bass lines and drumming lend it animation and drive, after which Bailiff's clear-throated vocalizing comes audibly to the fore during the macabre waltz “Sanguine,” though that does change somewhat when cello and sleigh bells add to its arrangement. A funereal march of drums, strings, and organ, “Violets & Roses” registers as more of a memorial ceremony chant than the love song its title might suggest, while “Goodnight” and “Slowly” are rendered memorable by the contrasts between Bailiff's soft vocal delivery and the songs' grimy, bass- and guitar-heavy backdrops. During the non-vocal segments of “This is Real,” the song could pass for some lost Fripp-Eno work-in-progress. When the vocal does enter, however, the song becomes a disturbed torch ballad of the kind Julee Cruise might have sung at the Black Lodge. Bailiff eases up on the gothic tone when “Firefly” closes the album with some sunny jangle, making for an uncharacteristically uplifting end to a collection that seemingly prefers shadowy mystery to the naked exposure wrought by daylight.

December 2012