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Ella Thompson is surely no stranger to the cosmic pull of multiple musical projects, having shared her talents in acts like Dorsal Fins, GL, The Bamboos and Axolotl over the years in the undeniably ripe Melbourne scene. Here we see her cutting the collaborative chord and stretching out in to the solo world with her aptly titled debut Janus.
Melbourne’s Ella Thompson begins again on the brilliant Janus. It’s a debut effort marked by a sense of adventure and invites you back again and again.
The title immediately grabs at you, for when you dig a little deeper you find that Janus was the god of beginnings and transitions in the delightful world of Ancient Roman Mythology, a god that provides doorways, gates, passages and endings. Amidst all the pop sensibilities there is some deep thinking afoot?
Ella Thompson does exactly that with opener Drift, a swelling Phil Spector inspired wall of sound that has supposedly lived with her in numerous incarnations for many years and the yearning, lovelorn Away Too Long. It’s almost as if she is willing to ‘open the door’ for you, coaxing us inside with a weird, off-kilter world that will attempt to blow our minds and keep us feeling perfectly secure at the same time. I may have delved too far in to the recesses of my own brain on this one, but that’s the point right?
Enlisted to assist with honing the possibly galactic ambitions was producer John Castle (Washington, The Bamboos, Gossling), whom she first worked with in 2006 at the age of 16 providing backing vocals for The Bamboos. It seems like the length that they have known each other proved fruitful in providing a comfortable environment to explore the very present feeling of infinity. Arcade is a perfect example of producer and musician working in harmony, no doubt sharing equally hare-brained ideas or avenues, the song has the potential to be a sprawling, lengthy track yet it is honed in to a precise three and a half minute track, a single that allows us to explore the cosmos without ever feeling lost.
Vocally the record is delicate with an underlying strength, like Thompson has gained a new kind of confidence that comes with the freedom of exploring the unknown using your own voice, yet is wise enough not to use it all in one sitting, careful not to crowd too many ideas into your brain. Album closer Losing You is a gem that grows with each rotation, ethereal synths create a vast sonic playground for affected drums to build a backbone in which Thompson can call out neurotic lines like “Baby, I’m so afraid of losing you/ I’ll change my number”. The title may suggest loss but it felt oddly like coming home to closure.
The album isn’t a one listen and you get it type of deal. On our first listen we did feel like we hadn’t noticed distinct track changes, it blended in to one sound. On second and third rotation it’s that very same reason we loved it. A cohesive piece of work, with a hugely visual aspect that feels like you have just listened to the first chapter in an artist’s exploration of a craft that’s soon to be highly developed.
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