Music

Jane Weaver and the Immortal Aspects of Man

The singer/songwriter discusses the inspiration behind Modern Kosmology

Music Features Jane Weaver
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Jane Weaver and the Immortal Aspects of Man

Singer/songwriter Jane Weaver has tried on many musical guises over her long career. She got her start in college as the frontwoman for the post-punk outfit Kill Laura, which released some singles on a label run by New Order manager Rob Gretton and scored some radio airplay on John Peel’s show. After that band split, she helped start Misty Dixon, a more pop-oriented outfit, while also cultivating a solo career that, at the beginning, worked with the raw material of psychedelia and American roots music.

As wonderful as almost all of those projects and albums were, there’s something about the turn that Weaver has taken over her past few albums that feels like a more comfortable fit. Her last three LPs, including the recently released Modern Kosmology, have concentrated on influences from the ‘70s with shades of Krautrock, disco and early electronic music.

“It was such a rich time for music when I was growing up,” Weaver says, speaking via Skype from her home in Manchester, England. “On one side of the spectrum you had Kate Bush, Hot Chocolate and the Bee Gees. And on the other, heavy rockers like ELO, Wings and prog. I was soaking it all up like a sponge.”

She’s certainly wringing out all of those sounds throughout Kosmology. The new album is a playful yet moody affair, with Weaver and the various folks she conscripted to help realize her vision allowing themselves the freedom to goof around with vintage drum machines and analog synths and play instruments they aren’t well-versed in (you can hear the concentration that engineer Henry Broadhead is putting into each slightly off-beat drum fill on “Valley”). Various musical touchstones can be heard throughout like the minimalist pulse of German group NEU! on “The Lightning Back” and “Loops In The Secret Society,” and a bit of Giorgio Moroder throbbing through “The Architect.”

For all those outside influences, Weaver remains the prime mover of every song here. She produced Kosmology over the course of last year, and while she had some assistance from members of the psych-folk group Starless and Bible Black, a lot of the instrumentation was done herself.

“I’m pretty controlling and strong,” Weaver admits. “I’ve been working in studios since I was 16. With age you get used to those kind of environments. I’m not as nervous as I used to be. And my time is a little more limited now that I have a family. But it is important to collaborate and work with other musicians. A lot of the time they can play these parts better than I can and have their own setup that works well with what I do.”

“She would hold seances and had this secret society that she worked with,” says Weaver. “She would hide all these codes and clues inside her paintings. And she stipulated in her will that she didn’t want anyone to see her work until 20 years after she was dead. I will really drawing from the brooding, mystical environment of that. Maybe she was a bit crazy but she has such an interesting story.”

Beyond the aural influences that drove Kosmology, Weaver says that also found inspiration in visual art as well. In the past, she has taken some cues from film and television, citing Rosemary’s Baby and a dark version of The Little Mermaid produced in Czechoslovakia as helpful in setting the mood for her 2010 album The Fallen By Watchbird. This time around, Weaver has been talking up the work of a little-known Swedish painter named Hilma af Klint. Working the last part of the 19th century and the early 20th, this experimental artist claimed that she received a commission from a being named Amaliel to create work that would call out the “immortal aspects of man” through bold bright paintings that are considering precursors to the school of abstract art.

“She would hold seances and had this secret society that she worked with,” says Weaver. “She would hide all these codes and clues inside her paintings. And she stipulated in her will that she didn’t want anyone to see her work until 20 years after she was dead. I will really drawing from the brooding, mystical environment of that. Maybe she was a bit crazy but she has such an interesting story.”

The mood of the album does find those same connections between the luminous primary colors and the darker underpinnings of Klint’s concepts, while also paying small homage to the Swedish painter’s work on the album cover. Like all the best abstract art, Kosmology is surreal yet accessible, experimental yet straightforward.

“I think the past three albums that I’ve done definitely have been more experimental,” Weaver says. “I think it’s mainly to do with going from using the guitar to exploring the world of synth and electronic music. It’s different types of machinery that create different types of noises that create different kinds of vibes.”

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