One of the more underrated artists to come out of Sufjan Stevens’s and Daniel Smith’s Christian artist collective, Liz Janes has a haunting voice and a knack for timeless songwriting. Her previous two records, 2002’s Done Gone Fire (produced by Bunky’s Rafter Roberts) and last year’s Poison and Snakes (produced by Stevens) were humble achievements in experimental gospel/folk, combining vocal sincerity with frequent outbursts of volume. Her latest project, a collaboration with L.A.-based improvisation collective Create (!), shows Janes covering more subdued territory as they rework six gospel standards.
Like all of Liz Janes’s previous releases, Liz Janes & Create (!) is utterly sincere and impossible to hype. The EP covers much quieter material than previous Janes outings, but Create (!) add volumes stylistically. From the cascading cymbals of “Lonesome Valley” to the creaking field recordings behind “Be My Husband,” the group lends welcome texture to the release. Janes, who is married to Soul-Junk’s Slo-Ro, is relatively subdued, retiring the explosive voice that characterized Poison and Snakes. In fact, the twenty-five-minute record relishes in hushed melodies until “Jesus is a Dying Bedmaker” and “Run Old Jeremiah/Keep Your Hand on the Plow” come in with full-on drumbeats.
The unassuming nature of this record may inhibit massive sales, but it should not dissuade listeners from exploring its layers. In a musical climate dominated by over-conceptualized ego stroking, the simplicity of the record is a breath of fresh air. Matched by the unobtrusive experimentation of Create (!), Janes has produced the most diverse, however short, work of her career.
Information about Liz Janes at Asthmatic Kitty’s Web site: www.asthmatickitty.com
Information about Create (!) at Sound Reactive’s Web site: www.soundsareactive.com
Prefix review: Sufjan Stevens [A Sun Came] by Mike Dougherty: http://www.prefixmag.com/reviews/cds/S/Sufjan-Stevens/A-Sun-Came-2nd-Edition/1135