Jessica Bailiff

At the Down-Turned Jagged Rim of the Sky

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Ohio-based sonic sorceress Jessica Bailiff's sporadically released albums always come with the sense that huge and mysterious things have been happening behind the scenes. Her last proper album, 2006's Feels Like Home, appeared silently, turning over the dark waves of fuzzy guitar textures and post-shoegaze drone rock that made up her earlier work for a largely acoustic collection of melancholic, U.K. folk-inspired fare. Six years later, At the Down-Turned Jagged Rim of the Sky follows Bailiff's tradition of insular, personal albums that best their predecessors while branching out in completely different creative directions. Beginning with the cryptically titled "Your Ghost Is Not Enough," the tone of ATDTJROTS is set for sounds we've never heard from Bailiff before. While washes of drony distorted guitar warble in the background, the song is less buried than the early drenched shoegaze of albums like Hour of the Trace, with moody vocals coasting high in the mix on roomy drums and a firmly rooted foundation of fuzzed-out bass. The palette of sounds is more in focus without being stripped down at all. The rocking melodicism of "Take Me to the Sun" takes this approach even further, sounding like a sonic argument between Slowdive and the Velvet Underground. It's as catchy as it is masked in layers of crunchy sounds, making for some of the most directly pop work of Bailiff's discography. The album twists through a variety of moods and styles, with lurching atmospheric gothiness on "Sanguine," doomy organ on the dark lullaby "Violets & Roses" and the neo-folkish "This Is Real," and wintery indie rock akin to the mid-'90s 4AD roster on album closer "Firefly." These stylistic changes are all steeped in Bailiff's careful production and unique blend of sadness and foreboding, keeping the overall flow of the album uniform, or at least without jarring stylistic standouts. ATDTJROTS sounds like a long-labored-over album, one that was put down and returned to many times in its gestation period. However, instead of sounding overly precious, it stands as Bailiff's most honest and exposed work yet. Over her long-spanning tenure, she has developed a signature sound, stemming from the exploratory tone-mining of space rock but with an intimacy all her own. The nine songs here represent her most ambitious and daring experiments yet, while retaining the considerately dreamy core that sets her work apart from any number of other soft-spoken spaceheads.

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