Jasmina Maschina: Alphabet Dream Noise

What's most surprising about the work Jasmine Guffond produces under the Jasmina Maschina name is how different it is from the material she's issued under the Minit guise with Torben Tilly, such as 2004's Now Right Here. In contrast to its hazy ambient soundscapes, her second Jasmina Maschina full-length, Alphabet Dream Noise, is a bold and melodious plunge into vocal songcraft that's equally rooted in acoustic folk and experimental electronic genres. Traces of Minit do surface in the music—certainly the songs' electronic dimension and attention to textural detail suggest as much—but without question Guffond's Jasmina Maschina material has a more immediate and easier appeal than the more purely experimental Minit material. Now Right Here, it goes without saying, can't compete with something as pretty as “The City is Moving Like a Map,” for example, while “Crying Dream” haunts like the most affecting torch song Julee Cruise never sang.

Some tracks hew to a singular style (a folktronic setting such as “Nina's Feelings”) whereas others pack multiple parts within a single setting. A piece such as “Noise is Noise and Feelings are Feelings,” for example, wends an unpredictable way through sing-song vocal chants and vaporous dronescaping and does it all in the span of five minutes. A bedroom production feel sometimes pervades the album, such as when tape hiss blankets the languid acoustic strums, electric guitar shudders, and soft vocals of the serenading “Sun,” and it sometimes radiates a psychedelic aura in its generous incorporation of synthesizer treatments (e.g., “Invisible Rays”). “Forgotten Wood” likewise adds an experimental edge to the material in its stuttering vocal treatment (kind of like a ballad treatment of “Hurdy Gurdy Man” updated for 2011). There's a summery and dream-like quality to the eleven-song project that lends it an appealing warmth, all of which helps make this follow-up to 2008's The Demolition Series by the one-time Sydney and now Berlin resident a thoroughly transporting collection of enchanting songcraft.

October 2011