Quick – how many solo synth and violin artists can you name? If you came up with more than three, we salute you. We last encountered Marielle V Jakobsons as the “J” in EJS, whose album was included in our winter recommendations; but here she presents a new sound for a new season. Glass Canyon is even different from her last solo outing, Ore (recorded as Darwinsbitch), in that her abstractions have grown more accessible. This is not to say that these tracks are friendly, how-do-you-do handshakers, but that the album as a whole declares, “Your efforts to understand me will be rewarded within a reasonable span.”
The mood of these six pieces is reflective without being mournful; they betray a deep concentration, an attention to craft. Synth and violin are not natural partners, but Jakobsons fits them together like soulmates on an internet dating site. “From the moment I met her, I knew,” says one. “We were meant to be together,” says the other, looking beatifically into the lens. Such matchmaking is likely instinctive, rather than trained. Each source needs to fold around the other, rather than to fight, so that two can grow together as one. And this is exactly what they do.
On “Purple Sands”, the violin starts off sounding like a western whistle, and the synth like a factory drone. But as they draw close, they each soften and find their space. The synth takes over the whistle and turns it into a wind; the violin responds by imitating a harmonica. The slow-churning “Cobalt Waters” hides mysterious depths behind sputters and swirls, ending with a series of forlorn, piano-like chimes. A dueling string finale provides the brief “Albite Breath” with pizazz. “Dusty Trails” justifies its length by shifting like an unmarked trail, becoming less obvious as it unfolds.
On paper, this combination of instruments might not have seemed like a good idea; on glass, it seems inspired. We still want to hear more of Jakobsons’ collaborations, but this is by no means a lesser effort. Considering the risk it represents, it may even be a greater achievement. (Richard Allen)