Jennifer Gentle - Valende (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Jennifer Gentle

Valende (2005)

Sub Pop

When a band from overseas attempts to infiltrate the states, more often than not they have a niche market they're hoping to fill, an already established market whose fans can be capitalized on, ripe for the picking. In the case of Padova, Italy's Jennifer Gentle, and their American debut Valende, the stereotype really fails to hold true. Jennifer Gentle's brand of psychedelic rock is something that stands on its own two feet, whilst tooting on its own kazoo. Jennifer Gentle is the product of Marco Fasolo, and Alessio Gastaldello's brand of psychedelic experimentation, acoustic melody, and overall capricious songwriting.

Pigeonholing isn't something that is able to be accomplished with Valende, as the Italian duo have truly incorporated a myriad of sounds into their record, from folk stylings to psychedelic ambience, more up-tempo acoustic rock‘n'roll, and a real melting pot of instrumentation. Everything from traditional drums and guitar to kazoos and a glockenspiel weave their way into Gentle's tangled web of sounds. It's hard to say whether or not this is what defines Valende, or what proves to be its undoing. It's refreshing to hear something that "out there," but one can't help but think at times that the lack of cohesion found in some of the instrument arrangements is a bit distracting. True, the chimes found on "I Do Dream You" fit well into the whimsical path the song is on, but other times, namely on "Hessesopoa," things spiral out of control. Starting out with some subtle banging on the symbols, things quickly spiral absolutely out of control. The symbols still resonate in the background, but a distorted, start-and-stop organ and random sound bytes throw the song into a chaotic frenzy that is just as out of place on the album as it would be on the next N*Sync album.

Things mellow out a good deal after "Hessesopoa," with "The Garden (Part Two)" leading the way with some light acoustic plucking, and very airy, subdued vocals. And although I feel "Hessesopoa" is out of place on this album, its contrast with the next few songs really help bring those out of their shells. "Liquid Coffee" is the band's return to the playful sense of humor that was so apparent on the first half of the album, exemplified by the song's rhythm section being covered by the sound of ticking clocks, and a chorus to the affect of "I spilled coffee on my trousers." It's still a more down-tempo song, but it has a definite playful nature to it. "Nothing Makes Sense" closes the album out in style, with a raucous and engaging effort. The song slows a bit at the halfway point, to give way to some tape manipulations that could easily make Marco the fourth chipmunk.

The album finally subsides with a grandeur not typical of the rest of the album. It's the kind of music you'd expect to hear while entering a large European cathedral, but then again, what really does feel out of the ordinary when contrasted with the rest of Valende? I can't recommend this to everyone, as the nature of this isn't something a lot of people will enjoy, but if you're looking for something different to try, you won't be let down just by the sheer amount of music incorporated into this.