Jess Bryant: Silvern (Red Deer Club Records)
Jess Bryant's debut album Silvern is destined to go down as a hidden gem. Released on vinyl, limited to 300 copies and download only by the wonderful Red Deer Club Records, it's an enchanting piece of work that feels familiar in parts yet defies a firm categorisation.
Those familiar with her work with the brilliant but criminally ignored and notoriously unprolific cult London band The Unrecorded, and those drawn in by her debut EP Dusk from three years back, will find much in this record to love, even though she has put her own very unique and compelling stamp on it.
Whereas she often looked nervous and unsure at their very rare live outings, this record brims with confidence and sounds completely natural.
The instrumentation on the record is fascinating. It ranges from very simple structures before going off on ambient tangents.
There's glockenspiels, clarinets and string arrangements, all of which create a natural, yet slightly chilling and menacing backdrop, reminiscent of obscure French film scores of decades past.
It's a collection of nine pieces of music, but they flow beautifully into each other.
That backdrop provides the perfect canvas for Jess's incredible voice. It's haunting, as if from a different age and a different place, but there's a child-like innocence to it, tinged with an undercurrent of something a little darker, whether she's singing or harmonising. It has a warmth and depth and range and mastery of pitch and tone that stands her out from the crowd of female solo artists.
Her voice tells mysterious narratives of ghosts, visitations in the night and love, and the impression is that she's feeling every single word of every song, such is the intensity.
To pick a highlight of the album is a difficult task, although Stone Lady and The Glance are probably the most accessible.
It sits together as a complete piece of work, best listened to as a whole, late at night in a darkened room with a single malt, brandy or a fine port. One of the most unexpected, yet complete and thrilling albums of the year so far.
Hear lead single Cutting below:
The limited edition album and download can be purchased via Red Deer's website.