Jessica Moss is known best as the violinist, co-composer, and backing vocalist with the acclaimed chamber-punk band Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra (SMZ) and the avant-klezmer group Black Ox Orkestar. From 2001 to 2014 SMZ made six albums and toured extensively – as the band went on hiatus, Moss began performing solo work, leading to mesmerizing solo appearances at ATP Festival, Le Guess Who? and the Montréal Museum of Contemporary Art, among others. In 2015 she self-released the cassette Under Plastic Island (recorded with Guy Picciotto of Fugazi). Pools Of Light is her first full-length solo album.
As fans of the aforementioned projects will know, Moss has developed a distinctive and impressive approach to violin that combines a natural technical fluidity, a recombinant command of folk, classical and modern idioms, and an adventurous exploration of signal-bending and analog effects that uniquely expand the spectrum of the violin as sound source. Her solo work is deeply rooted in live performance, where she builds up and breaks down stunning longform compositions in real time with an array of pedals – including octave/harmonizers and samplers/loopers. To hear all of this brilliantly rallied and unfolded on a wholly solo recording (without reliance on software-based dubbing or effects) is intensely rewarding.
Comprised of two side-length multi-movement compositions, Pools Of Light unfolds at a stately, inexorable pace, combining sound-art and signal-processed timbres, extended melodic and contrapuntal lines, and the periodic deployment of stark, minimalist vocals. "Entire Populations" is a 24-minute tour de force that comprises Side One, opening with gently blown-out solo violin layering a maqamand klezmer-inflected theme that gradually recedes to near-silence as vocals are introduced, with Moss singing a single phrase (anchored by the song's title) which builds up anew in careening stacked vocal loops, towards a majestic juxtaposition of dive-bombing electronics and strident melodic string excursions, ending in a tender scorched-earth denouement. "Glaciers I" and "Glaciers II" on Side Two are more explicitly textural and cinematic, moving between minimalist and maximalist, widescreen and intimate, ice and heat; a highly compelling suite of drone-inflected, nuanced and subtly plaintive instrumental pieces.
Pools Of Light is elegiac durational music at the intersection of neo-classicism, soundtrack, electronic, art-punk and avant-folk – a decidedly organic, nonacademic, profoundly searching and emotive work, guided by Moss's liner note mantra: "Feeling love in a melting world."