Joan Jeanrenaud

Strange Toys (Talking House)

On her second solo album, former Kronos Quartet cellist Jeanrenaud aims “to become an ensemble of players, though playing all the parts myself.” Thus, Strange Toys often relies on syncopated four-string phrases overdubbed in the studio or electronically looped into richly layered arrangements that never sacrifice accessibility for flashy invention. This listener-friendly approach lets you hear how each strand of the music weaves together. “Axis” plays off a fascinating cyclic motif, amplified by a subtle yet persistent echo, while “Transition” uses dueling contrapuntal lines to create a sumptuous dark mood. “Kaleidoscope” lays a dramatic bowed melody on top of a plucky riff, pumped up by an electro beat. “Ink Blot” mixes simple bouncy lines with sweeping overtones. Though the CD is rigorously “avant-garde,” its genius lies in its listenability.

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