To distinguish herself from the ranks of other acoustic-based singer/songwriters, Jesy Fortino goes by the name Tiny Vipers. It's an apt nom de musique: the imagery of little snakes reflects how her subtle, delicate songs wind and wend their way into your brain instead of showing their brilliance immediately. On Tiny Vipers' Sub Pop debut, Hands Across the Void, Fortino's wise-beyond-her-years voice and free-association lyrics are a bit reminiscent of Joanna Newsom, but Fortino sets her musings to the sparest of settings: her carefully picked acoustic guitar provides the backbone of her sound, with the occasional electric guitar and percussion fleshing out her music a little bit more. Hands Across the Void's songs drift in and out, and the spellbinding mood they create is the most noticeable thing about them at first. Gradually, the strength that underlies the economy in her dreamy, contemplative words and music reveals itself; Fortino is confident enough in her work to not over-embellish it. Though her approach is simple, Fortino's songs are anything but monotonous. The EP spans brief mood pieces like "Forest on Fire," where the somber acoustic guitar melody is overtaken by menacing analogue synth distortion, to "Swastika," a subtly unrelenting ten-minute epic. Fortino also imbues Hands Across the Void with a spectrum of moods, from the whimsical, lullaby-like "Shipwreck" to "The Downward," which is as bare and haunting as trees in winter. Managing the neat trick of being subdued and memorable at the same time, Hands Across the Void is a strong debut; as with Tiny Vipers' name, its title captures how Fortino's songs reach out for connection, no matter how much distance must be crossed.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares