Jane Weaver’s Loops In The Secret Society. Ah, this is one of my favourite albums of 2019, but one of those reviews planned for print publication that got away. I think this one dropped by the wayside because of a change in house style made it a tricky one to reconfigure, and it’s been sat among my files, waiting for an opportunity to not be condensed but instead just expanded a little for blogging. And it’s timely because the releasing Fire Records, at their Bandcamp page, have a ‘Bookback’ CD/DVD of with new illustrations and experimental visuals from its tour noted for release circa 15th November.
More intriguing and ethereal a musician than Jane Weaver you’d be hard-pressed to find; once part of brit pop outfit Kill Laura and signed by Rob Gretton in the 1990s, her experimental electronica work over the past few years has seen her declaim Amon Düül II as inspiration and sample Hawkwind’s Star Cannibal track, culled from their most leftfield electronic LP Church Of Hawkwind. Indeed, when I visited Dave Brock himself a couple of years back for a magazine interview feature, he was at pains to mention that particular sampling as part of Hawkwind’s on-going relevance and influence on subsequent generations of musicians.
This extensive double album revisits and recolours extracts from her previous suites The Silver Globe and Modern Kosmology, alongside new shimmering ambient pieces to create an effect that’s akin to viewing a contemporary art exhibition or sequence of installations. If you accept that notion, you'll find it built around sensory perceptions, displaying shade, light, texture, tone and coalescing in an immersive whole. While I was working for a contemporary art gallery a couple of years back, the curators presented a sound installation at Richmond Chapel in Penzance of the work of Janet Cardiff (Forty Part Motet), interpreting a 16th century choral piece by Thomas Tallis in forty male voices, each played through a single speaker to create a complex ensemble sound… and though this is, of course, so very different, it feels like its textures and tones would resonate in similar setting.
Weaver has previously noted the Swedish abstract painter and spiritual mystic Hilma af Klint as a way marker for her own aural compositions, and indeed once you know that, in the patterns of Weaver’s music you find something intricately geometric in a similar manner to af Klint’s canvases. For Modern Kosmology she related to The Independent her interest in “the explosion of ideas: when they come, where they’re from,” and related that to stumbling upon af Klint, finding her “so mystical, but also so scientific.” In the record’s titular secret society there’s an acknowledgment of how important this painter, with her grouping of female artists ‘The Five’, who experimented with spiritualism and seances, has become to Weaver’s creative thinking, and perhaps a nod towards af Klint’s interest in automatic drawing. I adore something of art, in any media or medium, that sends you off to something else, analogous and yet different; that seems to me to be part of the subtext of being creative, that it opens eyes to other things as well.
There’s the repetitive electronics in Weaver’s music that have a totally hypnotic trance to them, but in her vocals, on the addictively compelling ‘Slow Motion’ for instance, there’s something of such simple, yet haunting beauty that you absolutely could lose yourself in it. Her voice has an ice maiden quality to it, distant and brittle, while her music feels like … I don’t know … an extra-dimensional temple of sound, as though it represents something out of time, timeless, lost to time, once again that spiritual mysticism found continuous aural form. And having not been familiar with previous work, it seems to me that Loops In The Secret Society is not just a re-exploring of established pieces for the already converted, but an expansive introduction to Weaver’s world that serves as a perfect entry point.