Dream weaver

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Musicreviews -

She once worked as a nanny to Tom Waits’s three kids, but clear-voiced Jesca Hoop didn’t need to take any singing tips from her for­mer em­ployer. True, some of the Waits weird­ness may have rubbed off on the Cal­i­for­nian. Her sec­ond al­bum has an off-kil­ter magic that’s as the­atri­cal and qui­etly out­landish as any of his re­cent records.

Like Waits, Hoop is a per­former of many faces. At times she sounds like she was plucked from the bo­som of the 1960s Bri­tish folk com­mu­nity

(Hunt­ing My Dress). At oth­ers, her quirky lo-fi, poppy rat­tle is sim­i­lar to some­thing from Devendra Ban­hart (the plinky clat­ter and snug har­monies of Four Dreams).

Yet there are also strong el­e­ments of forth­right fe­male mu­si­cians with strik­ing creative vi­sions on dis­play: Tori Amos, Imo­gen Heap and even Björk seem to have in­flu­enced Hoop. The ca­dence of her vo­cal de­liv­ery oc­ca­sion­ally sounds like she spent her teenage years drown­ing in Kate Bush’s back cat­a­logue.

Through­out it all, Hoop keeps things cloaked in a veil of strange­ness that’s in­trigu­ing rather than self-con­sciously wacky. The King­dom is an ex­er­cise in macabre me­dieval folk, an odd in­can­ta­tion with an al­most tribal beat that wouldn’t have sounded out of place at a 17th-cen­tury witch trial. The dreamt, ghost­like air­ings and back­ward-sound­ing vo­cals on Whis­per­ing Lights sounds like St Vin­cent per­form­ing in Twin Peaks on a windy Tues­day night. The ini­tially som­bre An­gel

Mom un­leashes a dra­matic metal­lic snap as it hur­tles head­long into its cho­rus.

Things are steered back to the com­par­a­tive main­stream with

Mur­der of Birds, with El­bow’s Guy Gar­vey adding some rough tex­ture to off­set the trans­parency of Hoop’s chaste vo­cals. There are peaks and troughs to

Hunt­ing My Dress but, over­all, the al­bum’s de­li­ciously odd am­bi­ence is one to savour. www.jesc­a­hoop.com LAUREN MUR­PHY

Down­load tracks: Whis­per­ing Light, Four Dreams

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