Formerly known as Jasmina Maschina and Minit, Jasmine Guffond comes to this ball under her own name. While her music has been (fairly) compared to that of Grouper, her work is primarily instrumental; impressions are formed by sound, rather than lyric.
One amusing exception appears in the center of track two, as Guffond sings about an elephant in her room; yet we’re at a loss to name it. This curiosity underlines the compelling nature of Guffond’s work, which retreats the more it is played. Each signal hides another signal, each layer another layer. This elusive quality draws the listener in like the frost giant’s daughter. Danger may lurk, yet the listener is blissfully unaware.
The first such segment is found in the waning minutes of the title track: a whispery drone that descends into a whorl of conversation-masking fog. But the track doesn’t start that way; it begins with chimes and mulched strings, creating a benign invitation. When the notes begin to wobble, one thinks, “perhaps it is time to turn back.” And yet already it is too late; reality is shifting beneath the feet. The trees begin to look like human figures; or is it the other way around?
Most ambient artists settle on a specific tone, and maintain it throughout their work. Guffond has larger goals. A yellow bell is a desert flower, resistant to drought, able to bloom in the harshest of conditions. Yellow Bell, the album, is a demonstration of sounds that defy rules. Once they sprout, they are hard to dissuade. Buzzes and beeps pollinate the speakers like bees and hummingbirds. Eventually the room is awash in sound. Even a track such as “Core Notions”, dry at the edges, possesses a discernible heartbeat, just insistent enough to be noticed.
The most beautiful moments arrive in the lyric-free vocals of “Useful Knowledge.” And what is this knowledge, if not the appreciation of resilience? The shrouded conversation of the title track gains clarity in “Lisa’s Opening”; the dry, hot day has passed, the coolness of the evening has begun. Somewhere, the next batch of seeds is already growing. (Richard Allen)