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CD REVIEW: Janubia - Mother Tongue
By Steve Allat - 02/21/2005 - 03:43 AM EST

Artist: Janubia
Album: Mother Tongue
CD Review: Label: Independent -InCreation
Tracks: 10
Released: 2004
For Fans Of: Kiva (see review), (check her website for influences)
Fav Tracks: Pohn Fohn Son, Son Raih Si.

Wow. After reviewing Kiva's 'Pulse', I figured I would be set up for Janubia.
I was wrong. This was one of the hardest CD's I've ever had the pleasure of reviewing, because I love the idea of it so much, and it is presented so well that I wanted to really like it. But Janubia, who presents a complete CD of tunes in a language no one has ever heard before, has challenged me either too little or too much, which is what I'll try to figure out for you.

What we have from Janubia is 10 tracks, 10 'songs' if you will. Her vocal styling and her powerful voice itself are what highlight the disc, as well they should. Songs attempt to take a stab at the traditional verse/chorus arrangement, which I certainly appreciated as it grounded the songs somewhat, keeping the vocals from meandering and not returning.
Describing her vocalization is tricky, and to me most closely resembles Latin combined with French. Trying to put a language on her language-less vocals is probably akin to trying to name a planet we haven't discovered yet, but I just can't help doing it as a way to help potential listener's get some feel for what her music is like. In any event, even though it's a kind of free form language, it repeats within itself somewhat, which I take as a good sign that the artist has created a vocabulary of sorts from which she can draw.

Now then, vocal acrobatics aside, how musical are her songs? That's what I'd like to assess.
As beautiful as her music can sometimes be, I'd still like to have heard words I understand with my conscious intellect. That may sound shallow or greedy, but I couldn't transcend not thinking enough. To me, knowing a little more would actually accomplish that, and thus understanding the language would relax me into enjoying more. This could be seen as a little ironic, as her music comes from a place of less thinking, but I couldn't help myself.
The accompanying musicians give us a pretty straight Latin/Spanish feel, influencing my predilection to try to categorize the music as a whole. The playing is great, don't get me wrong, but I'm left wondering why one style of music was chosen to back up Janubia wandering vocal stylings. I would have thought that her voice would have dictated much different music for each piece, and therefore the homogeneity of the music left me wanting.
In the end, I didn't get much of a different feel (happy, angry, sad, frustrated, etc.) from one song to the next, leading me to believe that she either feels the same much of the time or I just didn't get it.

On the bright side, I found that if I let the music be, it became background music quite easily - it was just trying to listen to it on purpose that 'frustrated' the average listener in me. Listening repeatedly, I was thinking that something memorable would hang in with me, but it never did. Whether music is all instrumental, all vocal, one style or many or any combination of all doesn't really matter to me as long as it gives me something to keep with me, and Janubia just didn't do that for me very much.

My favourite moments on the CD were the 'held notes' and the 'background vocal'-style singing, where the voice was not trying to be anything but a note or a sound.

As well, I loved the packaging and overall presentation, including her website, which I enjoyed more than the music.
Do check Janubia out, she does have something to offer, and I'm sure everyone that hears her or sees her will have their own idea about what she's got going on.

Contact: Debbie Grim, InCreation Management
Website: Janubia

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