Jenny Moore’s Mystic Business: album review

Review by Jelly Cleaver

Jenny Moore’s Mystic Business‘ eponymous LP begins with quasi-religious chanting, atmospheric screeching noises and percussion in the background. From this starting point the album evolves, exploring the different textures that can be found from the simple blending of voices.

With her background in art/party-punk band Charismatic Megafauna and as leader of the fierce feminist vocal ensemble, F* choir, you can hear these influences throughout this project which she describes as “choral punk”. The bare percussion that runs through the album, including marimba, shakers and bells, takes the soundscape from Charismatic Megafauna and puts it in a really different setting, with the drumming finally breaking through for a main feature in her track ‘Sandwiches’.

Mystic Business was originally formed in 2016 for a gig at Wysing Polyphonic in Cambridge, and they recorded the album straight afterwards in a three-day stint at Narcissus Studios in London. You get a sense of its immediacy in the recording, so fresh it’s not quite formed. Almost three years later, when the album was finally launched at Servant Jazz Headquarters in December, it was really brought to life on stage with more power, more fullness and more songs.

As she sings in ‘Flashbacks’, her most personally honest song on the album, she is trying to repossess choral music from it’s religious and patriarchal past. She says forcefully how good it physically feels to sing, especially the kind of community bonding you get from group singing, and it’s clear from the album that there was a lot of enjoyment in making it. As with ‘We Want Our Bodies Back’, often her songs are about reclaiming power, calling out the strangeness of the internet or choral music, but in a more gentle and humorous way than normal. Because of the music’s gentler arrangements, you can find it strangely relaxing, especially in the marimbas and wobbly pianos of ‘Flashbacks’.

Like in Charismatic Megafauna, most of the songs are made up of repetitive phrases that build with meaning. Sometimes the choir does these repetitions in cannons and rounds, a weird twist on traditional choral folk music, and as the cannon goes on things can get confused and distorted and lost. The repetitiveness also allows it to become meditative, throwing in surprises to wake you up, holding onto a shock punch line at the end.

There’s a strong sense of bizarre humour throughout, for example “I’d like to grow a tentacle or two, one for my Aperol Spritz and one for my drum stick”. Jenny’s speaking parts, which have been added more to the live act, add a lot of theatricality. Coming in as a contrast to the repetitive chorus, the spoken part sometimes acts like a cynical commentator to the drone of the choir. It’s a great way to tell a story through a song.

Catch Jenny Moore’s Mystic Business next on 26th Feb 2019 at Paper Dress Vintage.

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