Vocalist, violinist and songwriter Georgia Ellery is perhaps one of London’s most sought after creatives right now. As a member of experimental rock outfit Black Country, New Road, she has created two Top Five albums and earned a Mercury Prize nomination in the process. However, her own personal creative spirit is best sampled via her collaborative project with producer Taylor Skye, Jockstrap.
Together, the duo have been testing the waters of experimental, electronic fusion, blending somewhat abstract textural production with Ellery’s naturally crisp vocal tones in a dynamic comparable to Laura Marling’s LUMP project. Now, after four years in the making, the pair have released their debut album ‘I Love You Jennifer B’, a cohesive and comprehensive collection of tracks that lay down the Jockstrap manifesto; to never stay static, forever keep moving forward and to subvert sonic expectations at every opportunity.
They stick to that idea pretty firmly throughout the album, constantly changing atmospheres so that the listener can never get too comfortable or perhaps to keep themselves on their toes, so that they never allow their performance to drop due to familiarity.
The early moments of the album lay out the extent of their sonic tapestry. The album’s opener ‘Neon’ merges melancholic grunge tendencies with abrasive electronic textures, the title track ‘Jennifer B’ creates a more cinematic, string-laden atmosphere while ‘Greatest Hits’ develops into a funky, groove-driven rhythm that shows the first early signs of the album’s dance influence.
At the album’s mid-point ‘Concrete Over Water’ journeys into new realms. It is anthemic at its biggest moments and heartwarmingly intimate in the moments of tranquillity. Beginning with a stripped back vocal performance that radiates a raw vulnerability, the track then grows with a dance sensibility, building towards a euphoric climax with huge backing harmonies and rousing electro pulses that boast the same empowering feeling of Self Esteem’s ‘Prioritise Pleasure’. Yet, before this climax hits, the intense production completely disappears, leaving you alone to mull over Ellery’s poignant vocals once more.
This sonic wax and wane is a recurring technique of Skye, alternating a minimalistic production that centre’s around Ellery’s performance and a super-charged production that enthrals you in dense layers of textural noise.
The single ‘Glasgow’ is another example of this technique and is a definite highlight that encapsulates all the best elements of the album as a whole. Starting with cascades of somewhat detached harp notes and a sharp, piercing vocal, it is easy to become slightly disoriented at first. As much as Ellery’s vocals captivate your attention, you can ever fully settle in her blissful aura as your attention is constantly diverted by the off-kilter production.
However, this peculiar atmosphere is quickly pulled away from underneath you and replaced by swooning folk acoustics that let the undistilled beauty of Ellery’s songwriting shine through. Yet, the electronic disturbance of Skye’s warped production is always looming in the background, waiting to disrupt any brief moments of calm that the album may grant you.
It may be common practice to finish an album with your most naturalistic and stripped back number, yet Jockstrap refuse conventions once again as ‘50/50’ sees them dive deepest into their otherworldly, electronic dreamland with a hectic atmosphere full of cut up samples, jagged beats and a high-energy intensity that is fit for an underground rave.
This finale fantastically summarasies the ever-changing, abstract approach to genre and form that the album offers. As a whole ‘I Love You Jennifer B’ consistently impresses with its sharp turns, diverse array of atmospheres and bold sonic blends. Together, Ellery and Skye manage to combine soft, ethereal beauty and twisted electronic textures to create a sound that never relaxes. Ellery is audibly comfortable drifting between gentle vocal caress and sharp, soaring performance while Skye seems completely devoid of fear in his choice of production. A successfully adventurous debut that bears countless relistens.
Words: James Booton