Remember that time in the early 80s when Kate Bush, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and Cranes collaborated on a Christmas song for a Doctor Who episode where everyone was heartbroken and lost in an infinite snowdrift on a planet that orbited the afterlife? Well, that’s because it never happened, but this is the fugue delusion I sank into on the fourth replay of this wonderful little winter piece by Jodie Lowther, currently available as a free/pay-what-you-want stream/download. Lovely sound to come home to.
There’s something of a Victoriana ghost box pretty peculiar about ‘missing the season’, twinkled in a chocolate box wrapping, there’s a haunted under-current that waltzes beneath the softly shivered beguiled sepia of the adoring allure permeating from the cantering keys, their neo classical frail accompanied by the hush spectral of a ghostly siren-esque choral. This is Jodie Lowther fresh from her recent Quimper outing with a spot of M R James inspired, at least that’s what we take from it, open fire ghost story melodica. A perfect ethereal eerie if you ask me.
I do love the way that Jodie Lowther manages to extract from the heavenly, a haunting whilst simultaneously twisted what appears a magic land into the macabre. The teasingly short ‘the cat collects’ released during our self-imposed absence, sits and circles with playful abandonment clawing behind your consciousness, caught between the competing worlds of the living and the beyond, these seven silver seances gather like lost dreamers on the bridge between, forgotten and neglected, they huddle in groups conspiring mischief and eerie, it’s all very lo-fi and distant not to mention removed, those having fallen for ‘Circles and Holes’ finding momentary safe haven on ‘Guests’ before of course the descending dusk dusts it with a mild disturbia. ‘the living ones’ – in truth our favourite moment, is caste in a fragile unearthly, a darkly weaving frosted folk ghosting most reminiscent of the wrong path taken caution chillers by Keith Seatman. Elsewhere, there’s always the beguiled baroque like pirouetting posy ‘the same’, a ghostly genteel spun upon a musical box for eternity.
Jodie Lowther’s fourth solo album is less an album than a spectral landscape to get lost in, over and over. It’s spellbinding.
Imagine, if you will, a flickering curtain of lilac light fluttering in mid-air. You take a breath, close your eyes, and pierce the veil. On the other side, a fantastic realm reveals itself, where nothing is as it seems and nothing like anything you’ve ever seen before. There are marmalade skies and turquoise sun. The clouds are shaped like dragons while tigerlilies nip at your heels. The dead, they rise, for the dead move quickly in this realm.
These are some of the visions that may grace yr inner eye on The Cat Collects, the fourth full-length solo album from Jodie Lowther of Quimper. Being a collection of sparse, experimental pop-like recordings, where Lowther’s enchanting voice is accompanied by a lone organ, The Cat Collects inherently brings to mind the experimental radiophonic soundtracks of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. If Delia Derbyshire had someone produced France Gall and the pair had scored a children’s fantasy TV special, it might sound something like The Cat Collects.
Each track on the album operates more like a chapter than a “song” per se. The album works as a cohesive whole, giving the whole document a sense of a quest. Or perhaps a vision. Beginning with album opener “The Border,” acting like an invocation, which transports you into The Cat Collects baroque, shimmering, psychedelic world, each successive chapter acts as some kind of bizarre visitation, a meeting with some strange inhabitant of this alien land, like Valerie and her Week of Wonders if it had more drum machines and actual witchcraft.
The Cat Collects truly exists in a world all its own, untethered to time and space. It brings to mind other isolated sonic universes such as Moon Wiring Club‘s Clinksell or the similarly hauntological Scarfolk. Like these other alien realms, you could lose yrself for years exploring the intricacies of this strange and wondrous land.
Despite all this philosophizing, The Cat Collects doesn’t really need some beguiling back story to be bewitching. The album, as a whole, is driven by good songs. “The Cat Collects” is the best song Cat Eyes has yet to write while “The Same” is nearly elegiac, with its lonesome falling organ motif and Lowther’s ethereal vocals, calling out over vast distances. This spartan-ness, this simplicity, is representative of the album as a whole. Certain tracks, such as “Guardian of Junk” get a bit more lush, but not much. This starkness lets you examine each element in exquisite detail. And the details are exquisite, make no bones about that. The most striking element has to be Jodie Lowther’s vocals, which are truly bewitching. If Alison Shaw of Cranes were to start a Broadcast cover band, it might sound something like Lowther’s alternate universe.
While i’ve not heard every note of Jodie Lowther’s discography, or Quimper’s, The Cat Collects seems more like a continuation than a departure. That is a compliment, not a criticism. If you’d created a world this magical, wouldn’t you want to stay there as long as possible?
With full anticipation I awaited the new solo release by Jodie Lowther & when it arrived I had no reason to cool down my apparent enthusiasm. The title was already twinkling my imagination as I love cats and it was named ‘The Cat Collects” a double reason to go all loopy from excitement!
With an instant hurry, I dove into the first track “The Border”, which I had to hear a couple of times on repeat just to fully make the transition of dull nothingness smoothly into the wonderful magical world of Jodie Lowther. It’s placing the righteous tones of mystery in the mix, tickling itself with a humbleness and nibbling away with a certain ease that feels like a fragile music box that is determent to conquer your heart and sucks you right in to this brand new world of mysterious music.
One in which we roam around inside a mystical beautiful garden, one in which the cat rules the scepter, goes for a well willing explorer mode to get everything sorted out in this obvious paradise that hangs between dreams and reality. Every corner is filled with beautiful flowers, warm strings of light, bright cozy melodic extractions and the voice that spreads itself out like a humbling godmother that oversees the peacefulness of this remarkable hunting ground for this sweet spirited feline.
With a humbleness Jodie Lowther fills up the air like a mythological being full of serene love and serenity, one who is tiptoeing on the melody like an angel that made peace with certain things, clearly packing up a new found serenity to sound less dark and bewitching to deliver the sound of the artist being a human being who happens to create with the heart and soul tucked away in the rightful places. With small bits of experimental electronics she scratches the surface of emotions, nicely manoeuvring her music underneath the surface of your own skin like a session of ASMR but than without the cheesy soft whispering sensation, but a much more secure and self insured new born artist that reinvented herself as the scrapyard guardian of beautiful junk.
This is the album in which Jodie Lowther shows herself in the process of becoming a butterfly, safely tucked away in a cocoon that she has opened up for us to crawl in with her, unafraid and loyal sharing this intimate space of music like a warm pleasant shelter that we could be in after cleaning out feet. Here we can be good guests, being extremely warm welcomed and nicely treated by the gentleness of our beloved host who isn’t at all afraid to open the door for us as we knock on it with fierce anticipation, ready to be met with coziness that feels as equally intriguing as stepping into someone’s magical and deeply personal heart.
Here she brings the sound of new found knowledge, of a style that seems to say that we should enjoy every moment in life, appreciate loved ones and the ability to enter surreal worlds of utter realness. Jodie Lowther seems to have buried the past and now makes a clean start with a angelic pleasantness that is very calming, loving and honest; the kind of musical place that goes direct into you and decides to stay there for a while, perhaps forever.. happily riding along in your soul to provide wisdom in a humbling sensation like a magician that doesn’t do tricks but actually is doing the real thing with a positive light in her hands.
The last track has a bit of a darker toned tone to it, one that makes me think of the aspects of a funeral, yet it also feels as if there is a new found power in there, one that is strong and clever, ready to pop out any time and be that flying miracle that won’t be stoppable in her artistic and musical tracks! … I’m not sure if any of what I have written here makes any sense but this is what came out as I was in total awe of this special music as created by this spellbinding artist. If you are a special cat (or human?) collecting wonderful personal music than I suggest you to collect this album: http://jodielowther.bandcamp.com/album/the-cat-collects
One apparitional half of the surrealist Quimper duo, vaporous siren Jodie Lowther has been known to, on occasion, float solo. Her latest haunted diaphanous malady, The Cat Collects, is (as ever) a magical suite of dream realism and supernatural theater.
Between the characters of ethereal seraph and alluring cat lover, Jodie warbles, coos and entrances with a voice so fragile and gauze-y as to be almost an evanescent whisper: Jodie transmitting her vocals from the spirit side of the ether like a aria woozy Mina Crandon.
Drifting in a seeping cantabile sigh throughout this witchery spell of spooky misty songs and graveyard crypt sonnets is a subtle backing of feint melodies and stripped electronica – think Ultravox marooned on the Forbidden Planet or, an early Mute Records vision of 70s British horror soundtracks (Amicus, Hammer, British Lion). From invocations of Vampire lovers to black magic nuptials, The Cat Collects stirs up the right balance of scares and esoteric enchantment on an album of mysterious, creeping beauty and hazy Gothic soundtracks.
As wintry, haunting and enigmatic as its title, Jodie Lowther’s third solo album is a beautifully understated, perfectly realised collection of hushed, spectrally reverberating and intimate soundscapes. Perhaps best known as half of the experimental pop/peculiar duo Quimper (and for her work as an artist/illustrator), Lowther’s solo work is far more introverted and shimmering. The album establishes its very distinct identity with its opening track, ‘Lushizhang’; minimalist almost to the point of being ambient noise, like most of the tracks that follow it is concise and just melodic enough to be called a song. The vocals are distant, barely heard, beautifully elusive in a cocoon of enveloping atmospheric sound.
The songs are mostly not ambient in the sense of being musical wallpaper, this album is involving, embracing almost, but with often the faintest undercurrent of unease beneath its shimmering ethereal surface. If one song captures the essence of the album it’s not so much the frankly ominous title track, but a song like the perfectly-titled ‘Half Remembered’; twinkly, glacial in its clarity yet somehow warm, with a mysteriously eerie edge to its magical pastoral atmosphere. Although the lyrics are mostly inaudible, the atmosphere is intensely pervasive and in the end Skeleton Moon has an almost conceptual feel, less a collection of songs to listen to than a bright, frosty moonlit night spent in a forest.
At times, as on the celestially airy ‘Samsara’ and the purely ambient ‘Reservation’, Skeleton Moon feels so pale and spectral as to almost be insubstantial, but in fact the relative shortness of the songs means that each piece makes its quiet impact before melting into the next. It’s also, despite this overarching atmosphere, a surprisingly varied album, from the unsettling, minimalist and ghostly piano/voice of ‘Moonfall’ to the painfully wistful feeling of the almost orchestral ‘Snow Gloam’. The album’s more sombre side is notable too, with the church-like ‘Coronach’ and funereally austere tones of ‘A Solemn Exchange’.
It’s hard to say whether, in the heart of summer Skeleton Moon will feel refreshingly clear and invigorating or just chillingly remote, but for now it’s a delicate, frosty delight; a beautiful evocation of the kind of wintry nights that you wouldn’t want to experience too often, but which definitely have their own, distinctive magic.
Jodie Lowther is one half on London-based electronic band Quimper, whom we’ve been covering for a few years now. Jodie provides vocals and visual art for Quimper, but she is an experimental musician in her own right and has released three albums since 2013.
Jodie’s first solo album is Klepsydra, Polish for hourglass, from 2013. Klepsydra is a set of 25 short instrumental tracks lasting roughly 36 minutes. The first two are sterile, flat, and cold electronic soundscapes. The remainder have a fuller bodied sound, showcasing Jodie’s different sonic visions. All are different, though Jodie has a penchant for cavernous sound textures and her wordless singing. Many of the tracks have Japanese-sounding titles like “Onibi,” “Ittan-moment,” “Zorigami,” “Furu-utsubo,” etc. But the music is definitely not Asian at all. Many are abstract soundscapes, others more ethereal, and some with a melodic structure. Most are very short snippets of compostions, but they seem to be of the proper duration, and all seen through Jodie’s dark outré lens.
Three years later Jodie released Circles and Holes, a collection of 20 short experimental sound sketches, spanning 34 minutes, reminiscent of the cassette culture. Each piece is unique and abstract, some with rhythmic electronics, others with dark spooky soundscapes or unidentified scraping sounds. Occasionally a bit of melody and Jodie’s wordless singing will peek through her electronic curtains. Jodie loves exploring different sound textures, at times over-processing the source material, like on the 59-second “Elephant Bells.” “The Wintertime Quadrant” is the only piece that recalls other music. Its odd electronics, repeated rhythms, and off beat loops sounds a bit like early Der Plan. I am not exactly sure when Jodie recorded these pieces, but there they sound very much like those on Klepsydra.
Her third album, Skeleton Moon, was just released in 2017 and marks a definite progression and maturation in her music. The compositions are now longer, 20 instrumentals clocking in at a total of 45 minutes, and several of the tracks sounding orchestrated instead of the moody sound poems on her first two albums. Once again, each of the 20 tracks is unique, but with a unifying theme of sadness and various forms of death. Jodie definitely has a dark side, which has also manifested itself in her work with Quimper. Jodie continues to favor cavernous reverb, which adds to the spooky, wintry full moon on the album artwork. As you experience the twenty tracks you move from a crystal clear night and a full moon to clouds slowly moving in with snow flurries for a floating and soothing ambient experience, all the while being lured by Jodie’s siren-like wordless singing into oblivion.
These three albums are an exceptionally nice set of dark moody electronics, especially since you can download all three for free from Jodie’s Bandcamp page.