Reviews | Jay Som - The Quietus
The third album by performer-producer Jay Som is a sweep of touching intimacy and riotous energy, finds Jo Higgs Jay Som’s stunning
The third album by performer-producer Jay Som is a sweep of touching intimacy and riotous energy, finds Jo Higgs
Jay Som’s stunning new album, Anak Ko, stands as a striking tear down of the oft-suggested mutual exclusivity of touching intimacy and riotous energy. Its 35-minute run time delightfully swings back and forth between ponderous balladry and punk-inspired brashness, as propellant bass accompanies a never faltering sense of honesty across all tracks. Anak Ko sees composer-arranger-performer-producer Jay Som (the moniker used by Melina Mae Duterte) expand upon and, in many ways, improve upon her previous two albums.
It’s and album that exudes positivity, even in its most hurt moments. The shimmering final cut that is ‘Get Well’ is brimming with this optimism as Duterte proclaims the lengths to which she will go to help the song’s addressee, adamant of a brighter future amidst swirling guitars and droning synths.
On the other end of the mood spectrum, ‘Tenderness’ begins with a lo-fi electronic drum beat over which gentle synths intone a looping chord progression that frames the soft and slightly muffled voice of Duterte. The cut is broken by a teasing second of cold silence that ushers in a wonderfully lush instrumental driven by tight drums and electric piano. Just before the groove begins to wane, an ascending key change inserts a vital dose of energy, seeing the track out as a highlight of an already glistening project.
Duterte’s ability as a producer is displayed majestically on this record, despite still being a home-studio-job. The sparkling summery guitar riding through ‘Superbike’ or the emotive cinematic string section elevating the tail-end of ‘Nighttime Drive’ to a gorgeous textural climax, are outstanding accounts of her prowess behind a mixing desk. She has abundant ability to tap into vividly colourful soundscapes , even amongst relatively simplistic instrumental arrangements. The warm tones seeping through this record, evident in distorted guitars, fuzzy synths and basslines that sound as if they’re being produced by a viola-bass à la McCartney, realise an orange sun hovering over a distant horizon, blessing us with its comforting heat.
Anak Ko sees Jay Som finalise a sound that has slowly bloomed into a delightful fruition. The project is stunning and displays a wonderfully acute understanding of what it should do. Duterte knows exactly where this album should stand within her own discography and that of the wider world. Its song-writing is calculated without betraying itself to rigidity and its honesty is telling without falling into a trap of timidity. Anak Ko owes a lot to Duterte’s awareness of how simplicity can breed beauty. Its greatest trick is the delicate fittings of nuance amongst deceptively uncomplicated compositions.