Tiny Vipers: Hands Across the Void (Sub Pop)

CD Review

Jul 18, 2007 at 2:06 pm

In 2003, Jesy Fortino relocated from Oakland to Seattle, bringing with her a songbook of darkly demented original Folk material better suited to a Goth festival than a hootenanny, and began making her reputation on the city's coffeehouse/bookstore circuit. Fortino eventually committed some of her songs to a trio of homemade CD-Rs that she sold at shows and local record shops, which brought her to the attention of the hometown bigwigs at Sub Pop. On her official Tiny Vipers debut, Hands Across the Void, Fortino shivers with the tremulously raspy sound of Kristin Hersh after a Nick Drake-and-bootleg-cough-syrup all-nighter. Influenced by the Legendary Pink Dots and Angelo Badalamenti, her songs are masterstrokes of tangled simplicity, complex narratives and emotions interwoven with sparse acoustic backdrops. Two of Void's most jawdropping tracks, "Swastika" and "Forest on Fire," account for nearly half of the album's 42-minute length. "Swastika" builds from its quiet, unassuming intro into a mesmerizing 11-minute experience, while "Forest on Fire" is an eight-minute meditative maelstrom of guitars acoustic and electric and sonic textures created on a fully functioning Oberheim that Fortino found in a bush. Fortino's shorter tracks are no less powerful, relying on raw lyrical outpouring and stripped back arrangements that grip the listener with a quiet urgency. Hands Across the Void will likely get lumped in with the quirky oddities in the Neo Folk genre while rising head and shoulders above most of the competition there. (BB) Grade: B+