Music Reviews

Artist: Rena Jones
Title: Driftwood
Format: CD
Label: Native State Records (@)
Distributor: Massive Music
Rated: *****

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San Francisco Bay Area-based violinist/cellist and audio engineer/composer Rena Jones has turned in an ambitious blend of gentle, lilting Ambient Electronica and New Age/Ethnic chamber music instrumentals that remain in search of their own definition. Given these musical parameters, a project such as Driftwood should be a walk in the park in the minds of most people, but here the accomplished and obviously talented Jones is caught in a typically thorny conundrum -- how to be experimental AND conventional at the same time. For example, second track "Photosynthesis" has some neat chord expressions, but they really deserve a better, much less sedate framework with which to set them off. The suggestively-titled "Open Me Slowly" has a muted violin melody line that recalls Chris Isaak's "Wicked Games," but instead of expanding on its erotic theme, the song feels close and claustrophobic.

Jones deserves points for her discriminating selection of sounds and textures, which she juxtaposes artfully and exquisitely. The programmed percussion contains the most "listenable" elements of the tracks, with varied kick-and-snare shots backwards-looped in places. All well and good, but in such mellow, regular song and chord structures, it's a bit like hanging Warhol prints inside the Notre Dame cathedral. Only track 12, the Slidecamp remix of "Photosynthesis," shows enough promise to transcend the album's general stasis. Unless taken in as strictly make-out music, Driftwood doesn't quite have what it takes to make it onto shore.

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