Rena Jones: Indra's Web
Rena Music

Part of the San Francisco electronic music scene, Rena Jones unites years of classical training (twenty on violin, twelve on cello) with skills in sound engineering and digital sound design in her “modern classical electronic” work; she has released material on Native State Records, toured as support for Plaid and opened for Ladytron, and recently launched her own label Cartesian Binary Recordings. Following the release of her third solo album Driftwood, Jones spent eighteen months preparing its successor, Indra's Web, and the investment of time and energy is clearly felt in the fifty-minute production that resulted (apparently some of its string pieces were recorded with musicians of the Chicago New Millennium Orchestra). Created with a meticulous attention to detail and with an obvious dedication to craft, the fifty-one-minute collection takes its titular inspiration from Buddhism and Hinduism, specifically the idea that, in spite of its infinite diversity, reality remains an interconnected and interdependent web where all things ultimately relate in some manner.

In ten originals (the eleventh track an EVAC remix), Jones creates a full sound from punchy breakbeat rhythms, electric piano sparkle, atmospheric electronic colourations, an occasional vocal murmur, and, of couse, strings—so many they sometimes swell into mini-orchestras all by themselves. Using digital sequencing software as a production tool, she draws upon ambient, trip-hop, funk, and dub in building her settings and uses programmed beats, keyboards, and synthetic bass to establish a fully-rounded instrumental base overtop of which her violin playing flows freely, whether as a solo voice or in a multi-tracked section. And though strings occupy the forefront, the balance isn't overly weighted in their favour; Jones gives as much attention to the instrumental surround, making for a evenly-weighted “band” sound, and a representative track such as “The Webs We Weave” overflows with acoustic and electronic sounds. Trip-hop rhythms anchor the spirited “Helix” and the title cut, whose unfurl of slow-moving mystery is deepened by the oceanic exhale of a cello section. The tracks range in mood from agitated (e.g., the tumultous “Point of Existence,” where violins repeatedly ascend over a dub base) to languorous (e.g., “What Once Will Be Again”). EVAC's “Helix” remix begins with a funkier and with a heavier electronic focus than the original but eventually strips the material down until the album's last sound becomes—appropriately enough—strings alone.

September 2009