Published Apr 13, 2016On her new album, Pale Moon Kid, Jenny Berkel's voice is a smouldering sound to behold. That shouldn't be a surprise, given her masterful turn on last year's Cicada EP, whose six tracks were absorbing and haunting precisely because they were so delicately understated. She includes two of those same Cicada slow burners on Kid — the same recording of "Pale Moon," and a studio version of "All That You Do," which appeared as a live cut on the preceding EP. Those earlier tunes are complemented by similarly subtle new cuts like "Tall Tales" (on which she hums enchantingly) and "Blue Lit Air" (which features soothing guitar strums).
An album full of such low-key numbers would have been more than satisfactory for Berkel's burgeoning fan base. But what truly sets Kid apart is its sudden left turns. On "I Wrote A Disguise (For You)," Berkel speak-sings acutely poetic lines like "There's a lamplight that beckons/ A clock full of seconds," until she evokes the eloquent essence of early Leonard Cohen. Those lyrics are complemented by ratcheting percussion, while a climactic brass solo brings the offbeat eeriness to new heights.
Berkel gives an even more ambitious turn on "Wealth In The Country," singing quirkily about a fox in the garden over a heartbeat bass drum and rustling tambourine — all of it amounting to a fitting Tom Waits homage. Meanwhile, on "St Denis," Berkel and her backing band conjure the spirit of Kate Bush — utilizing pinpoint guitar chords and singing in uncharacteristically sharp high notes — until the song becomes simultaneously sparse and atmospheric.
These boldly eclectic experiments are a joyous surprise. After all, Berkel more than proved that she could dig into deep subtleties on Cicada. But Pale Moon Kid is even more impressive because it unveils her vast range. (Pheromone)