Introspektivni pop Nizozemke Jessice ‘Jay’ Sligter, koja je morala otići u Norvešku da ostvari svoju Ameriku. Glas prebačen preko ramena da nas ugrije ali koji nekako uvijek sklizne na zemlju i uprlja se.
Somewhere between the über delicate introspective pop of Susanna Wallumrød and the wonderfully pastoral folk of Alela Diane is Dutch-born singer Jæ, who currently spends her time between Amsterdam and Oslo. Jessica ‘Jay’ Sligter studied music at the conservatories of her native town, Utrecht, and, later, Amsterdam, but it is in Oslo that she recruited the musicians who were to bring this album to life, by hanging around the Norwegian Academy of Music and progressively getting acquainted with members of the improv scene.
Jæ’s music is essentially folk-infused, but the rich arrangements and breadth of instruments used (Jæ herself plays guitar, melodica, piano, flute and recorder, to which are added, amongst others, percussions, strings, brass, mandolin, harmonium, musical saw, ukelele) give this record a much broader scope. It is a times as if a full orchestra, albeit one that doesn’t follow any conventions but its own, was setting up camp in Sligter’s living room, while at others, the ensemble accompanying her is so discreet that it almost totally disappear.
But these songs would be nothing without Sligter’s earthy voice and her slightly bitter-sweet lyrics. Her vocal performance is beautifully restrained throughout, filling each song with just the right amount of emotion. Right from the opening line of Adam’s Place, it is difficult to escape the appeal of Jæ’s delicate timbre, her words carried like paper boats on a stream to land exactly where they need to be. The melodies are never quite as straightforward as they appear, yet these songs flow elegantly, underlined by subtle touches which give them each an identity all of their own, from the classically-tinted vocalise of Red Around The Eyes or the heart warming harmonies of Jim’s Place and Song Came From M. to the exquisite dialogue she maintains with a musical saw during Reverse and I Still Owe The Morning, the latter sounding quite like a late night jazz club standard. With its understated mandolin backdrop, Over, The White Snow is easy to dismiss, but its graceful rendering and its wonderful violin motif toward the end, make it a particularly touching song, while the quietly sweeping chorus of Gentle Friend contrasts greatly with the wandering verses.
Balls And Kitten is a truly poetic and enchanting record which can only but steal the heart of whoever happen to stumble upon it. - ww.themilkfactory.co.uk/
Voice On The Verge #32 • Jæ
When Jessica Sligter’s debut solo EP dropped on our doormat late last month we were instantly intrigued by the hand-drawn cover and promptly slotted it into the stereo for a listen. This was an excellent move on our part as it proved to be a thoroughly engrossing eighteen minutes of time well spent. And then another eighteen minutes, and another and another.In our review of said EP (The Forming Of The Shaping, here), we wrote: “Gifted with a classical musician’s attention to detail and phrasing, whether on piano, keyboards or flute, Sligter is that alluring mixture of precision and pure instinct, infusing songs like ‘Daniël’ and ‘Don’t Know Your Strength’ with an almost paradoxically confident vulnerability that recalls the likes of Jana Hunter.”
Basically, we liked it. A lot. So we got in touch with Jessica and asked if she would be so kind as to fill out our trusty questionnaire, which she did. This is what she had to say.
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What were you like at school?
My usual self, just a little more extreme I suppose. Shy, often turned red as a lobster, and yet quite expressive and daring at times. Also, I’d walk around having endless discussions with myself out loud, bursting into blush and going into a sort of hum or singing when someone suddenly turned up out of nowhere. I never really managed to be part of a clique, even though at times I longed to be admitted to the alternative, punky group. Strangely enough I never got teased or anything, safe from the occasional mockery of an extreme outfit choice.
Who was your childhood idol?
I’m not too big on having idols, but I remember being quite obsessed with Rembrandt and Claude Monet. Also I was crazy about composers Tchaikovsky and Puccini.
What did you listen to when you were growing up?
I had a quite eclectic taste, I guess. Listening to Fauré, Mozart and Tchaikovsky, as well as Rage Against The Machine, Rancid and The Deftones, yet also Alanis Morrisette and The Prodigy. The first CDs I ever bought were by Céline Dion and Mariah Carey. Later on it was jazz pianist Bill Evans, Billie Holiday, and also Pat Metheny for a good while, ha!
What did you want to be until you decided to become a musician…if you ever did ‘decide’ that is!
At some point I think I wanted to become a mannequin, and at some point a doctor.
What would you be if you weren’t a musician?
Another person, I suppose.
What’s the worst job you’ve ever worked and what was so bad about it?
I think that would have to be working in a call centre. Work for the braindead, and not for shy people. I’m not capable of working a job that so blatantly solely revolves around ‘making money’. Money doesn’t interest me, unless I need it to eat, see my loved ones, or make something beautiful.
Are you multi-lingual?
Besides my mothertongue, which is Dutch, I speak English, German, Norwegian and French. Nice thing is, when you learn one of Norwegian/Swedish/Danish, you can understand pretty much most of the other two as well! Three for the price of one. I love how a culture opens up to you when you can speak with people in their own language, and I feel it’s awful that in so many countries the school system does not put a very strong emphasis on learning several languages! I often meet people who are sad that they weren’t forced to learn more languages in school. I wrote a song in French for my little sister when she was born. It was not very good But recently I wrote a pretty rockin’ song in Dutch, for my little brother’s eighth birthday. It was easy and great fun!
What was the last good book you read and how did it affect you?
Boyhood by JM Coetzee. Beautiful. But mostly I’ve been listening to short-story podcasts by The New Yorker. They are amazing. Favourite stories were by John Updike, of course, and Bernard Malamud and Donald Barthelme.
What’s your favourite poem and how much of it can you recite from memory?
My favorite poem is a love poem by e.e. cummings. I can’t recite it since I haven’t read it in a while now, but I still know the imagery very well. It’s about how, when you’re vehemently in love, your body seems as if it’s another body. You feel like another person, from being with your love and from touching them. You tingle. You look at your hand and wonder “who’s hand is that? It surely can’t be mine!” only to realise with amazement that it is in fact your own hand. Etcetera. It’s the most beautiful, delicate poem about love I know.
What are your views on feminism?
To be honest, for me it’s not much of an actuality in what I, vaguely, know to be its pure form. I’ve never gone very deep into it, and yet I like to boast about the fact that some sister of my grandfather walked next to the Dutch pioneer of feminism in those first protests. What can I say?
Being a woman in the music business surely is a disadvantage at times, be it for missing out on the little boys-cliques that stand so strong, or be it for receiving a belittling attitude from people based solely on the external recognition that they’re dealing with a woman, and a woman who apparently thinks she’s going to be doing…‘something’. The way I see it, people generally are fearful of change. I think we’re biologically made to fear anything and anyone alien, within our packs and especially coming from the outside, as part of our survival instinct. And yet – look also at the mere fact of evolution – life means change; a constant of change, in fact. Change meaning that someone or something will be different than the other(s). It fascinates me how so often in life it seems there are two contradicting forces dancing back and forth, either in relative balance or in relative mayhem. Looking at history from afar and more up close, it’s not hard to see that the reality is that the incredibly large majority of people alive today are not used to meeting a woman who has, so to speak, ‘power’, who sets out to make stuff happen simply because she wants to, and so on. They don’t know it; they don’t know that it’ll be alright, in relation to themselves, because they haven’t experienced it before. So it doesn’t surprise me at all that I get some rude comments and some disrespectful manners here and there. That’s the fear of the different. It’s natural.
However, what to do? When you encounter a person or other animal that is frightened of you, and you’d like for them to come to feel comfortable and accepting of you, the best way does not seem to be to fight back but rather to stay calm, go about your business and make no sudden, big movements. This way they can start to be able to estimate your actions, see that they won’t be hurt and relax. They can find out a way to relate to you, you strange unkown thing. That goes for animals being genuinly frightened, but also for these unconscious fears that spring from our nature and seem rather hidden from the surface. So, most often when matters concerning feminism are acute, I do nothing else than stay calm, try to stay confident and stick to my guns. I say that is hard enough as it is! In any case, I’m confident that in this way people will be most likely to be attracted to and pick up my views on how a woman should be respected, treated and feel free, equally to men.
Which female musicians have most inspired you?
Gillian Welch. Her record Time (The Revelator) has been more or less a daily must for the last three years. Musically exquisite. Also, I’ve always been very inspired by Björk’s ability to look beyond the music alone and create a strong connection with the visual arts world. That really teaches me about teaming up and making amazing things happen in collaboration. Also Icelandic artist Olöf Arnalds [a member of Stórsveit Nix Noltes] has inspired me by her great songwriting, and Josephine Foster by her musical courage and wit.
Tell us about your favourite instrument…
I’d have to say that the mind is my favourite instrument. It was given to me by nature. The fact that we can have original thoughts can make me so excited I almost start to hyperventilate. I love playing around with music in my head, changing parameters or dreaming away on certain combinations of sounds, and consequently trying to convert what I’ve conjured up into reality. Which is despicably difficult. That’s what the big bulk of the work really goes into.
Do you have an instrument you’d still like to learn? What’s stopping you?
I’m currently doing my best to learn to play the guitar properly. I’ve listened to guitar-based music for years and years, so in my head I can play off some pretty amazing guitar. However, what comes out my fingers is so incredibly far from there. It’s a challenge to take little steps and stay motivated.
What’s your biggest fear?
Losing my loved ones.
If you chanced upon Aladdin’s lamp what three things would you wish for?
(1) That I could finally just practise my actual profession, fulltime, without a hassle; (2) An extra shot of confidence. That never hurts; (3) To keep me and my loved ones safe from tragedy.
What’s the biggest problem facing the world today and do you have any ideas on how it could be addressed?
That’s difficult. There are so many. Perhaps it’d be best to keep with the things I know. In that case I’d say, in the Western world, I feel a big issue the youth faces is the issue of ‘choice’. Learning to choose not to choose, for example, and learning how to choose based on your own feelings and opinions, seperating that from opinions and feelings imprinted in your mind by corporations and others serving their own interest. There’s a lot to deal with, here in our fancy little world that’s changing so rapidly all the time. Otherwise, ehm, world hunger? There would be many many ways in which that could be adressed, but which of them is at all realistic, what would be a step that could actually be taken right now, I have no idea.
What would you tell your eighteen year old self if you could go back in time?
“Don’t even give in one inch, and be confident about it. They don’t know what they’re saying or what they’re doing. They have even less of an idea than you do!”
What’s your favourite quote?
Oscar Wilde: “Life is far too important to be taken seriously.”
How would you describe your new EP in ten words or less?
Like being cradled, against a warm bosom, comforted.
What have you done today to make you feel proud?
Practised, worked and hung out with friends.
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Visit Jæ on Myspace.