Jessika Kenney – ATRIA

3 out of 5

Label: SIGE

Produced by: Mell Dettmer (recorded by)

Interesting, depending on what you’re looking for. Jessika Kenney’s ATRIA features several variations on the artist’s constructions: vocal pieces (in Indonesian, I believe), backed by unique – to my ears – orchestration; disassembled ambient works – rhythmless echo chambers of effects – and longer form sections that are adjacent to drone, albeit maybe a bit more organic than I’d normally consider drone music. According to Kenney’s description on the album, there is a theme here (“a meditation on an internalized meta-historical dynamic between Javanese and Persian traditions”), but I’d point to the extended timeframe over which the album’s works were constructed – 2007 to 2013 – and Jessica’s mention of various intangible sources for inspirations of dreams and associations and the like as a reference for why I maybe had a hard time feeling immersed in the project: excepting the excellent ‘Her Sword’ bookends, and some of the more focused tracks, I couldn’t quite get a sense of direction from ATRIA. It definitely works at selected points: the Sword tracks are absolutely stunning, with Kenney’s vocals hauntingly floating above percussive elements, and the shorter tracks can be appreciatively meditative, allowing for a brief meetup of vocals and a highlighted instrument. But the overall open-endedness of many of these tracks, and the way they float into and out of different sections of expression (not always accompanied by singing – some of it is just ambience), is perhaps a bit more of the experimental type of music which I can acknowledge as fascinating, but not really demanding of repeated or closer listens: music with experimentation as its main pursuit.

Of course, some listeners prefer such works, but I can’t say it’s my bag. When ATRIA offers up more typically song-like elements, it’s quite gorgeous, and Jessika’s trancelike singing admittedly carries my attention as well.