Some albums exist in their own little worlds, made by musicians so immersed in their own musical landscapes that it’s difficult, as the listener, not to be pulled in to them. Jen Gloeckner’s ‘Vine’ is one such record. It’s an album with a consistent sonic hallmark, full of airy guitars, warm synth pads and understated, sensual vocals. An exercise in atmosphere as much as anything, it’s an album that does indeed build it’s own world – one where heartache and longing are commonplace but are treated with a relaxed, persuasive calm rather than high drama.
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‘Vine’ is a record which – much like the ’90s trip-hop and chillout albums it’s so influenced by – exists for dual purposes: whilst Gloeckner’s songs are, like any other album, at the heart of ‘Vine’, it also serves as an album purpose-built to ‘switch off’ to. There’s hardly a single moment of high energy in the forty minute run-time, and while that leads to some degree of repetition, it also allows Gloeckner to craft an immaculately consistent atmosphere. Ultimately ‘Vine’ is a mood piece more than anything and, taken on those terms, there’s plenty to merit in here. Production is discreet but efficient, allowing Gloeckner the sleekly understated finesse needed to carry her songs effectively.
The album’s sonic palette is rarely unexpected – there’s plenty of quietly shuffling drums, sumptuous synth chords and the occasional cello – but by the same token nothing feels out of place and every note seems tailor-made to fit the gentle melancholy of ‘Vine’. Although Gloeckner puts emphasis on a sense of place and mood rather than overt hooks, there are a handful of more instantaneous moments here. The dreamy ambience of ‘Counting Sheep’ isn’t catchy in the way that most lead singles are, but the song’s sweeping ambience is one which does have a way of staying with the listener well after it has ended.
‘Vine’ is a record somewhat out of time. Too ambient to call pop and too pop to call ambient; it’s an album that instead puts itself in the direct lineage of the the atmospheric, understated grooves so prevalent twenty years ago. It’s an album undeniably retro in it’s aesthetic but yet refreshing in its approach – and ultimately all the better for it.