The term “psych-rock” gets thrown around far too often, but the duo of Marco Fasolo and Alessio Gastaldello are worthy successors of the tie-dye mantle. Recently signed out of Italy by mega-indie label Sub Pop, Jennifer Gentle sounds more like they were lifted straight out of 1967. Taking more than just their name from Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett, Jennifer Gentle turns out a debut that is able to overcome nostalgia despite their dated influences.
Valende begins with “Universal Daughter,” a lovely introduction to Fasolo’s multi-tracked, mushroom molded voice. While his nasal tone can be a little distracting, it perfectly suits the bizarre music it leads. An odd voice just doesn’t sound quite as weird over kazoos and squealing balloons.
Following “Universal Daughter” is the album’s best track, “I Do Dream You.” Upbeat and laden with hand-claps, the song has a manic quality that makes the song’s two and a half minutes fly by. Buoyed by a sped-up guitar riff and pushed over the top by a frantic organ, “I Do Dream You” could have easily come from the pen of Barrett himself.
Among Valende’s slower, woozy songs “Circles of Sorrow” stands out. A delicate violin line shadows echoing vocals while an acoustic guitar picks fractured arpeggios. “Circles of Sorrow” leads perfectly into “The Garden Pt. 1,” a more straightforward acoustic ballad. Two finger-picked acoustic guitars weave melodies around each other while the complete absence of extraneous effects seems loud on an album that is at times dense.
The album’s only real flaw is the poor sequencing, highlighted by the placement “Hessesopoa,” the freak-out separating “The Garden Pt. 1,” from “The Garden Pt. 2.” Seven and a half minutes of noise isn’t really necessary and kills the mood gently established by the two previous songs. The track would be better placed toward the end of the album, bringing listeners back down after the delirious, helium-inflated “Nothing Makes Sense.”
Jennifer Gentle doesn’t achieve the status of the psych-rock pantheon established in the ’60s, but not by much. Valende is the perfect album for hanging out with your friends on a lazy afternoon. Any deeper listening than that is bound to turn up the irritating flaws in sequencing that detract from the stoned-out bliss.
Rating: 3 and 1/2 out of 5 stars