low budget :: high concept.
Barkentine is a return to true sound and space production, as well as a brave take by a singer/songwriter with influences as eclectic as brazilian jazz, classical, folk, and world music. With the theme of a ship at sail, this record contains in it the essence of vast space, organic and nostalgic textures, even sea shanties to make it real. The constant in this intimate follow-up record is Lui’s vocal performance that is almost touchable from your speakers.
Similar to her first first record, Teargirl, Aaron Bowen & Jane Lui teamed up to co-produced Barkentine. with a mobile studio and mini-disc recorder, they went around recording in classrooms, churches, recital halls, random living rooms, and on ships that creak and where children sing. The production formula is sparse and odd, where you’ll hear a choir for 8-bars but never again, or a mallets driven bell song entirely played by Lui. As a lo-budget hi-concept project, she plays 14 instruments in addition writing choir and string arrangements. Other talents include John Ray (drums), Aaron Bowen (slide/bass), James Ritts (guitar/bass), Michael Tagart (vln, vla), Sarah Paik (cello), and SDSU a capella choir.
The daring production and candid vocal performances make this a real and 3-dimensional record. Bare, melodic, intimate, the whole thing rings of secrets, like those you were never suppose to listen in on.
San Diego Troubadour Review :: Aug 2007
by Chuck Schiele
Jane Lui is in her own space. I don't know how to really classify this music. It has many elements, but I think it does disservice to offer my interpretation of what I think those things are. So I'm not gonna do it.
I will tell you that it is an impressionistic collection of songs meandering more like sublime moderato dreamscapes as opposed to the usual and obvious strides in kitschy-catchy pop-craft. Lui is a thinker. She see's the world in a unique and beautiful way. As an artist. And I'd say she's more successful at sticking her neck out in the name of originality than most. My respect for that is in kind.
One thing to note is the quiet essence of these tracks. The songs whisper more than they ever raise their voice but the work remains urgent somehow by way of its own freedom to go where it's going to go.
The music and words are gorgeous. Her voice is flawless, naked, and real, which makes this a good time to switch to the production value of this work. Barkentine was recorded and produced for the most part by Aaron Bowen and Jane Lui. I dare say that Mr. Bowen's ear for production rivals the best around as this is a remarkable recording. It feels like a candid experience - as though she didn't know he was following her around in her own private thoughts that sound much like the whispers and creaks in an old house.
And whether it was intentional or not, the primary concern is its own stride toward the idea of 'beauty.' It just sort of is what it is left to the confidence that it is beautiful as is. The effect is deeply moving.
That said, there remains a matter of the production style, which is uniquely fresh in its super clean finish, the decisions for simplicity, and the knack for the not-so-obvious choices made in terms of its arrangements (centered around Lui and her piano or guitar for the most part.)
You'll still find yourself turning your head now and then in wonderment about either some subtlely crazy sound or a violin that comes and goes like a Doppler-effected train off in the distance. It's more like an energy that moves through you, changes you somewhat, and keeps moving.
Visit www.janeshands.com to find out more.