Its Always Full
Every time I put on Full Moon in 3, the latest album by Santa Barbara songwriter Jennifer Terran, something happens. Right from the opener, Full Moon, a physical shiver of I dunno what hope? coalesces from the probing piano arpeggios, from the words about pain-turned-to-fertilizer, from the high light-beam voice, and from the melody slowly reaching upward toward its goal. In The America Song, a pretty travelogue drops into a dark chord, and Terrans A-mer-i-ca becomes the most mournful word Ive ever heard. Pomegranate Weed is the deepest regret expressed in a quiet scream, dissolving into lovely babble and a piano thats lost its mind so completely, it nearly boogies. The music sounds different with each listening.
Its infinite, says Terran on the phone, slowly as if talking to herself, how music and art can be perceived. Though all her records hold diamonds, there was something special about creating Full Moon in 3. It was a very huge synchronistic, magical, powerful time, which led to motherhood, which led to many things that opened up another room in my life.
Terran records meticulously with wizard musicians (bassist Todd Sickafoose, drummer David Brogan), leaving wide spaces to set off artful details vocal choirs, Mellotron gushes, synthesizer carvings, string dabs. And this time she had engineer Husky Hoskulds (Tom Waits, Norah Jones, Fiona Apple) to lend an objective ear. The result is a recording that talks like a friend in your car and unfolds like a Da Vinci on a good stereo. Terran worries about technology.
Its sort of sad that MP3s are taking over, she says, cause they dont have the depth. And youve gotta ask yourself, how are people listening to MP3s? On their computer, with a weird little speaker.
So much depends on preconceptions too. Terran says one listener couldnt take it when she sang out of tune on a particular passage. I just thought, yknow, I intended that. And what is out of tune? I started thinking about people like John Coltrane, and I wondered if he had reactions like that.
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Though her father is a jazz trumpeter and her favorite music largely follows suit, Terran herself doesnt . . . swing. Shes a songwriter, one who tries new forms. She says she likes pure music. Whats that?
Umm... where youre not afraid of what you sound like when you perform, and you surrender to whatever is genuinely coming up in that moment. Youll hear that when you see her live.
Im listening to Openings Had, a dense yet transparent wind of baroque voices swirling like cranial demons. Its on my computer for once, which does have advantages. The silly music-visualizing program generates the image of a coruscating orange star, which, as the music fades, shrinks to a small white full moon. There are no coincidences.
Jennifer Terran (with cellist Laura Mihalka) plays Hotel Café, Tues., Sept. 5, at 8:30 p.m. A 2001 story about her is at www.laweekly.com/music/music/everybody-hurts/4931/. Also visit www.jenniferterran.com.