Saturday, April 24, 2021

FLOCK: Jane Weaver's refreshing call to action

Jane Weaver is a shapeshifter. In keeping with the experimental spirit of post-Merseybeat music-makers, the independent Liverpudlian musician has successfully spun a long and illustrious career by lacing a myriad of obscure musical styles into her compositions – to masterful and, often, contemplative effect. 

None more so than with her eleventh and newest album release, Flock: a neon burst of psychedelic pop that counteracts the current air of despondency with whimsical electronica, reawakening us to a brighter future ahead. 

Starting out as a member of Kill Laura (whose records were once released on the cult imprint of legendary New Order manager, Rob Gretton), Weaver spent the 90s and early 00’s dabbling in Britpop and folktronica before deciding to take the plunge as a solo artist – her best career move to date. 


By allowing herself to gravitate towards more esoteric inspirations, the self-styled “songwriter and sound-carrier” earned accreditation for defying categorization; reaching a zenith in 2017 with Modern Kosmology, which tapped into elements of English psychedelic folk, second-hand krautrock and 80s synth-pop


The effect was a striking hum of cosmic and boldly feminine energy that returns with fresh vitality in Flock. Despite venturing to make an album that fundamentally derives from commercial (as opposed to conceptual) elements, critics are hesitant to view this sway towards the mainstream as a betrayal of artistic integrity. 


For good reason: Weaver’s sound is still unabashedly her own, just inverted to appeal to the “post-new-normal” pop consumer. 


Flock is underpinned by the echoes of Lebanese torch songs, 1980s Russian aerobics records and Australian Punk, but takes more concrete shape through a medley of pulsating disco beats, shimmering chimes, mesmeric synth, and funk guitar. 


Forget the grungier vibe that defined her earlier records: this is glittering dance-pop as perfected by Kylie Minogue or Dua Lipa, repurposed for the modern age. Marketed as an “eco-friendly” fusion of timeless pop tropes, the message carried on its imprint (and within the music) is one of escape from the exhaustion of social media, inequality, and the toxic masculinity of world leaders. 


Speaking of which, the album title, “Flock”, is an acknowledgment of Weaver’s former Manchester music label, Bird Records, which she told The Guardian was started up “to help a lot of female musicians I admired, such as Cate Le Bon and Beth Jeans Houghton”, back in 2015. “They – ridiculously – just weren’t getting ahead in the way our male peers were”. 


It echoes recent calls for diversity after the release of the U.K’s 2021 proposed festival bills revealed a disappointing lack of female artists in line-ups for major planned events such as Isle of Wight and Glasgow’s TRNSMT festival.


Flock’s release on 5th March predated that news by a mere three weeks, marking Weaver’s first stamp on the mainstream as being closely in tune with demand for immediate revolution within the U.K.’s popular music industry. Refreshingly, with Flock, her music is encouragingly accessible enough to create the pressure for the change needed. 


Perhaps it’s natural that the album cover depicts the artist as nesting among a vivid arrangement of brightly coloured bird cages, the figurehead of a flock of bright, emboldened and unrestricted new talents taking flight: 


“My mind tends to visualise birds a lot whilst I’m writing”, Weaver recently explained, whose industrial hometown was overrun by starlings every year as she was growing up. “The council would try all sorts of methods to try to control them...but I really loved them”. 


This conceptual genius of Weaver’s music in this album is that, in her quest for artistic and political freedom, she infiltrates the problem from the inside out by twisting what we normally perceive as restrictive tools of production to suit her own purposes. 


The idea of recycled material takes precedence as technology is creatively repurposed to become a source for healing that stimulates reconnection and works to expel pent-up stress from being restricted to living through the internet.


Take “The Revolution of Super Visions, a delightfully upbeat, funk-driven track that pays homage to Weaver’s love for Prince. “Do you look at yourself and find nothing?”, she keeps on repeating, which is intended to mimic the addictive nature of online communication. But the rhythmic quality of this repetition is also therapeutic, alerting listeners to their senses.

Megan Rough 


Image: ‘Flock’’, Jane Weaver, Official Album Cover

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