Gentle Party's Jouska features ecstatic melodies and jazzy elegance

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      Gentle Party
      Jouska (Phonometrograph)

      Bring on the vinyl!

      I’m listening to a download of local chamber-pop innovators Gentle Party’s first album, and my computer speakers just aren’t cutting it—not because Jouska isn’t a good recording, but because there’s just too much going on here for anything less than the best in audio-delivery tech.

      Gentle Party has the instrumentation of a chamber-music quartet—harp, violin, cello, vocals—but its ambitions are symphonic, and this incredibly assured debut delivers stunning, wide-screen sound. Describing that sound, however, is a lot more difficult than simply falling into it. There are moments here that have a kind of Disney-princess preciousness—the swelling, dreamy “Ghost Writer”, for instance—but harpist Elisa Thorn undercuts the equally impressionistic “Little Tiger”’s sweetness with unsettling electronic swirls and aggressive plucking.

      Elsewhere, the band moves a surprising volume of air for a drummerless quartet, cellist Shanto Acharia being largely responsible for its more prog inclinations. Violinist Meredith Bates adds keening, ecstatic melodies, while vocalist Jessica Ylirussi combines jazzy elegance with indie-folk fragility to deliver lyrics that speak of tenderness and vulnerability.

      Some Vancouver music pundits have been beating the drum for the return of rock, but what’s far more exciting is that there’s a new crop of bands in town that are forging their own sound with little regard for guitar-bass-and-drum orthodoxy. There’s always going to be a place for crunchy six-strings, but albums like Jouska and Only a Visitor’s soon-to-be-released Lines offer proof that there’s a beautiful world to be won by looking beyond old patterns.