I find these drizzly, cloudy days in the Pacific Northwest to be the ideal setting for breaking out the Jessamine cd’s from my collection. Jessamine was a band out of sync with the more populist sounds of alternative rock emerging from the Seattle scene in the mid-90’s. Their blend of krautrock, post-rock, and shoegaze set the band apart from everyone else in the region at the time. Certainly, Sky Cries Mary achieved a fair amount of success-but they had a more psychedelic and dance-oriented sound.
Jessamine’s self-titled debut album on Kranky Records is a treasure trove of eerie, haunting sounds that aren’t necessarily disturbing, but certainly not in line with the upbeat or angsty sounds of the time. Their minor college-radio hit Cellophane (KCMU-the precursor to KEXP-used to play the heck out of it) off of the debut album is what originally drew me to the band. The song’s surreal beauty always make me think of an imaginary David Lynch film. Definitely for fans of Slowdive, Can, and Slint.
You can listen to the song over on the youtubes. Read more after the jump.
Several other songs off the debut album also have an otherworldly feel to them (Ordinary Sleep and Secret in particular stand out), but the band was just as interested in pursuing more experimental and improvisational sounds as well as swooning pop songs. One Trick Pony is a great example of this side of their music. They would explore these sounds even further on their next album, Long Arm of Coincidence.
Seeing the band live was always a special experience-the band was so clear about what they were wanting to create, that they were able to take their songs off in exciting new directions. Their keyboardist in particular was always creating fascinating new sounds. The band released three full-length albums and a collection of singles and rarities called Another Fictionalized History. The debut and the singles collection are the places to start if you want to explore their music. All of their releases are well-known for having intricate, creative, and beautiful album artwork. They even put out a single that came with a lock and key. If you are a fan of Stereolab, and enjoy the keyboard aspect of Jessamine, you should check out Fontanelle as well-the keyboardist and lead guitarist’s follow-up project.