Monday, November 30, 2020

JUBE - As One Door Closes . . .

Did you know that in Estonian, “jube” means “horrible, terrible, scary”?  Me neither.  Amazing the stuff you discover when you’re reviewing music.
What I do know though, is that “horrible, terrible, scary” are not adjectives that can be applied to As One Door Closes . . . , the recently released album by JUBE, aka singer-guitarist Julie Clarkson and her keys-tickling husband Bennett Holland of the Laurence Jones Band. Julie and Bennett = JUBE, see?
Jube act cool for the camera
When the album kicks off with ‘Everything’, with warm and slinky Fender Rhodes piano from Holland leading into a silky vocal from Clarkson, embellished by bass lines from Darren Campbell frothing up to the surface, the vibe is something not a million miles away from the 80s nu-soul of Sade.  But this isn’t a template for the rest of the album.  Sophisticated they may be, but JUBE aren’t glacial in character.
On the following ‘Deep Blue Sea’ Clarkson pushes her voice into more helium-infused territory, before they plunge into a funky groove for the chorus, with jazzy rat-a-tat-tatting drums entering the fray from Richard Storer.  Holland blends piano and organ, even as his voice meshes with Clarkson, and they smooth and snap the arrangement in different directions over the course of four minutes.  This kind of soul-jazz is probably as close as they get to a default mode, with Clarkson’s breathy cooing rubbing up against the corners of Storer’s pattering drums, while Holland veers between simplicity and jazziness, and Campbell adds a burbling groove.  Tracks like ‘Wear Yourself Thin’, and the closing brace of ‘Behave’ and ‘Bare Faced Lies’ are in this vein to a greater or lesser extent.
But the departures from the norm make things interesting.  ‘People’, for example, eases in with Holland’s rolling piano counterpointed with a quietly scooting rhythm from Storer and patient vocals from Clarkson, but then the rippling piano is overcome by a hail-shower of drums, and it becomes an edgier affair, with Clarkson’s voice becoming more forceful.  And on the combination of ‘Inside’ and ‘Civilised’ they take that edginess further.  The former, a brief, wintry instrumental comprised of desolate piano chords and sparse guitar notes, melts into the latter, on which Clarkson shifts her voice towards Kate Bush territory amidst more rippling piano and a slide into the halting chorus.
My favourite track though is ‘Drag’, which features quirky, finger-snapping percussion studded with simple acoustic guitar from Clarkson, in such an infectious fashion that I can imagine Clarkson’s eyes twinkling as she delivers the verses.  Meantime Holland gets to exercise his lungs more with a quavering lead vocal on the more conventional chorus.
Perhaps they could have laid down the gauntlet a bit more with a track going even further “out there”, or something more vibrant just to mix things up.  But I’m praising with faint damns.  As One Door Closes . . . is a refreshing palate-cleanser of an album, full of classy playing from all concerned, and Julie Clarkson’s voice brings a seductive intimacy to proceedings that’s hard to ignore.  Like I said, not horrible or scary at all.

As One Door Closes . . .  was released by Freshly Squeezed Music on 21 August.
JUBE have also made a documentary about the making of the album, which you can find here.

No comments:

Post a Comment