Phosphenes by Jessica Moss

Release date: November 19, 2021
Label: Constellation Records

Those a bit more familiar with post-rock (or bands like Arcade Fire) will certainly be familiar with the name Jessica Moss, a composer/violinist who had her most known work with Silver Mt. Zion and Black Ox Orkestar.

More recently she’s been working as a solo artist, and ‘Phosphenes’ is her third solo album.

Not quite sure whether choosing the term phosphenes as the title of this album was a conscious or subconscious choice (possibly both), but for those not so familiar with the term it signifies “the phenomenon of seeing light without light entering the eye.”

In any case, it is a sign of these isolation times, and musically speaking, Moss has those isolation feelings down to a pat. The sound of her violin is presented here in a number of shapes and forms – acoustic, amplified, layered, distorted, and electronically-shifted, presenting a multitude of variations she’s trying to express.

Of course, such a concept presents a number of obstacles that can bring it down. Music can become fractured, overcomplicated, or be lost in improvisation attempts.

Moss though overcomes these possible obstacles by carefully structuring her music to give a new dimension to what you can call ‘isolation sounds.’ This is particularly the case with the three-part ‘Contemplation’ suite.

Yet isolation can produce more personal boiling points and the noisier ‘Distortion Harbour,’ certainly reflects that. On the other hand, ‘Let Down’ seems to express the feeling of emptiness that can engulf us when alone, and the closing ‘Memorizing & Forgetting’ sounds like a sifting process through our thoughts with a glimmer of hope that both physical and mental isolation will be over at some point.

‘Phosphenes’ is an album that reflects these gloomy times in all its aspects, yet provides the hope that gloom will not end up in doom.

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