Johanna Warren - Fates

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Band Johanna Warren
Album Fates
Country United States of America
Genre Folk, Ambient
Release date (album) 2013
Release date (review) 2018/04/18


There is something intriguing about the cover artwork. Those twigs, those antenna-like appendixes, are these an attempt to take in sounds and atmospheres from the surrounding environment or is it a make-shift crown-like thingy? Judging from the facial expression, the outcome appears to be anything but convincing. Hence, should this attempt be doubted or encouraged? ... Does she demand a verdict? ... With less focus on a monochrome expression and imagery, one might even go as far as to expect certain tree-hugging melodies here. Something to ease the spirits, or some kind of counterpoint to it all. Lure the listener into one direction and then thwart this build up of imagery by something entirely uncalled for.

Alas, such is not the case, as the general tone of the music "follows in line" and is rather contemplative, taken back and gloomy. A sweet and gentle female voice takes the listener along and is accompanied by a guitar and various types of other instruments, like a flute or a piano. And even though the bottom-line of this release are the melodies of the guitars plus the voice, it is due to counterpoints of other types that would appear throughout the tracks that create some small ( fascinating ) sparks; there is nothing more dull, than an endless procession of nothing but the same. Johanna Warren's music lacks the monotonous simplicity of many acoustic bands. Even though the roles are definitely set in a strict and uncompromising manner, there are enough surprising facets in the compositions to divert the listener considerably. But still ... it feels like a missed opportunity to break with the melodic setting only on a small scale. A bit more bravery, a bit more daringness and variation in the atmosphere could have help to overcome some occasional but rare and slightly odd or tedious moments on this release.

The opener is good. It sets the mood. Has a cool atmosphere. It really takes the listener along and presents also how Johanna Warren interprets her music at that time. There is a bit of warmth, a bit of distance, a bit of playfulness. A bit of ambient elements are there, the piano makes an appearance. All is in a continuous flow. All is harmonic and gentle. There are no disturbing elements, nothing unpleasant. Those diversions make sense. Stylistcially, it is not so much a gentle day in spring, but more of a gloomy, but nevertheless comforting Indian summer. Time for a glass of a heavy red wine and not yet for the first gulp of whisky. Earthen ... the music is earthen. "My Storm" is darker, has more intensity, things are brewing the background and could turn things in either way. To hear a flute open the succeeding track "To the bone" is somewhat odd, because it wakes memories of the Danse Macabre from the Middle Ages. Sadly, there are no rattling sounds. Alas, it is a pity. And thus it continues. A bit of this and a bit of that. Melodies, atmosphere, variations.

"Fates" points to a problem at hand. Should the voice and the lyrics really leave a lasting positive impression on the listener, then a "success", in sensu creating a fan, could have been established quite easily. Nevertheless, the music has moments in which it circles around itself, in which lyrics appear in limbo and repeat themselves, in which all comes over as brittle and without a clear sense of direction. Those emotions are opaque and do not reveal themselves in any serious kind of way. In terms of the impact of the lyrics on the listener, one can only fathom, but the overall focus on relationship aspects might not be something everyone has a keen interest in. Especially when stretched over an entire release -- and even though the quality of the texts is actually not bad. It all feels not as engaging as one might want it to be. Therefore, the music and the impression tend to fade in fascination at some point.

The good, the bad and the weird ... somehow ...