Friday, October 28, 2016

EP Corner: Golden Tongue

Jeni Magana has been making music for years: playing the clarinet in school, writing jingles for adverts, and doing all sorts of session work for other people's bands. However, Magana is a bit like ESKA (who spoke to this blog last year about her long-time-coming debut album) in that, while she's been a hard-working musician for most of her life, she's only recently got around to releasing a set of her own songs.

"This is a chance for me to carve out a space for myself to speak," says Magana of her new Golden Tongue EP. The record's cut-up cover art is reflective of that manifesto: after years of working behind the scenes, her contributions overshadowed by other people's aims and artistic statements, Jeni Magana can now show her face and allow a little of herself to peek out from behind it all.

Golden Tongue's four tracks are just twelve minutes long in total, but Magana showcases a formidable, fluctuating emotional range within that relatively tiny time frame. On opening track Get it Right, she sounds weary and a little confrontational as she explains that she's sick of people making demands upon her time and energy for no good reason:

"Get it right, get it right, if you're gonna, gonna waste my time"

Then it's on to track two (Inches Apart), and we're immediately shown a more fragile side of the artist as Magana explores her fears about being the more emotionally vulnerable of the two people in a relationship:

As these tracks flit past - their lyrics evoking a quiet tenderness one minute and lashing out in frustration the next - Magana's voice and her brooding electric guitar remain at the centre of everything, with other sounds swimming around the speakers and providing just the right amount of musical embellishment. Special mention must go to the drummer, who shows admirable restraint throughout and only cuts loose when the song demands it, meaning that the title track lands with maximum impact when it shows up at the end of the EP:

I used to play live drums for SCRIBER, so I know how challenging it can be to hold back while you're waiting for this part of the setlist.

When you listen closely, you realise that Golden Tongue actually features a fairly impressive variety of instruments - there's a sax on Get it Right, a distant-sounding synth pad on Inches Apart, and what I think is a cello on The World Doesn't Know. But rather than supplying catchy hooks or clever counter-melodies, these instruments mostly serve to give the eerie yet oddly comforting impression that the songs themselves are breathing in and out, in and out. And perhaps that's the best recommendation I can give Golden Tongue: its four songs sound alive, and each one is shot through with a rawness of feeling that's quite compelling. I hope to hear a full-length album from Magana very soon.

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