Folktronica Project Spartan Jet-Plex Releases Haunting New Album
There aren’t many black holes we’re willing to tumble into, but the dark dreamworld of Spartan Jet-Plex’s new album, Godless Goddess, is the exception. Awash in quiet harmony and echoes of folk-meets-electronica, it’s a dizzying record that feels endless, like we could fall into it and never make it out the other side. Sounds scary, but it’s actually got a beautiful view.
Spartan Jet-Plex is Nancy Kells, a jack-of-all-trades who balances her own unique musicianship with managing Grimalkin Records, a Richmond-based label focusing on releases from queer, women, WOC, non-binary, non-gender conforming artists. We need labels like this. We need spaces for artists to thrive and be supported and connect. The result of Grimalkin is not necessarily cohesive — they’re not genre-focused, they’re people-focused — but it is wholly one-of-a-kind, putting out releases from dream-pop to folk and more. Hear Nancy talk a little about Grimalkin and the new record below:
Godless Goddess is one of many Spartan Jet-Plex releases — Nancy’s been juggling her business pursuits with her music for over two decades — so it’s got the kind of soft confidence that a seasoned artist would (or should) have.
The record opens with “Stop,” the first suggestion that Godless Goddess will not be your typical dream-pop album, but it will be so much more. It resounds with deep electronic thrums (same with the percussion), a stark contrast to Nancy’s pretty voice floating in airy echoes. We also get the subtle trill of birds, a motif that reappears several times throughout the album, grounding Godless Goddess in the natural world it tries to veer from. Next is “Chronostasis Interlude,” one of a few brief (sort of) instrumentals serving to disturb and disrupt the dreamy atmosphere we’re slipping in. It’s alive with eerie vocal play and a blooming arrangement cut with bittersweet melody. On “Fear,” Nancy’s quivering voice shines above a minimalist composition of acoustic strums, a long, languishing piece that finds Nancy delivering a reflection of sorts, followed by “Baubo,” another quick instrumental plinking and buzzing with the otherworldly whir of electronica. It’s a surprisingly refreshing, goosebump-inducing track until the maniacal cacophony of laughter marks its end.
The halfway point of Godless Goddess finds “Everything,” a gorgeously quaint ballad devoid of disturbia. It’s over far too quickly, though — a steady acoustic strum moves along the length of the track, aided by the drone of an organ, all while Nancy’s vintage voice sings line after line of loving and lovely confession: “you are a dream.” On “Entrance,” Nancy first follows the quiet folk structure of previous songs until haunting harmonies echo off the guitar line and it devolves into a bouncing electronic arrangement — by the end, these two warring soundscapes have merged. “Hurt” once again combines the far ends of Spartan Jet-Plex’s talent and interest. At times it’s a sweet folk track, but at others, it drowns in ghostly wonder and the sudden onslaught of sinister whispers and electronic treatment.
The last instrumental on the album is “Trust and Believe (Survivors),” a confident electro composition once again veering into the otherworldly territory of aggressive beeps and glitching rhythms. Godless Goddess ends with “Light,” a conclusion so emotive and bursting with, well, light that it acts as a palate cleanser to the serpentine record we’ve gotten ourselves lost in. That’s not to say it doesn’t still boast the echoes and swells and overall dreaminess of Spartan Jet-Plex — it does. It’s just lighter, like a weight off Nancy’s shoulders.
Godless Goddess is a battle between the dark and the light. Touched by the alien and the uncomfortable, it’s an impossibly intriguing exploration of ambient and audience — linking worlds and emotions like they belong together when, in fact, they really don’t, but Spartan Jet-Plex has us fooled.
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