An ode to Jay Som's re-released Turn Into.
In Turn Into, Jay Som finds a rhythmic sweet spot and lingers. The first few seconds of each song establish a pattern, unfolding what appears to be the blueprint for the music that follows. The pleasure of listening is in the lack of anticipation. Without waiting for the hook or the chorus we can simply just relax. But there’s nothing lazy about Jay Som, Melina Duterte’s solo act. What at first listen may strike us as effortless is actually a sound that grows incrementally, so slowly and seamlessly that we’re only aware once the transformation is complete.
“Unlimited Touch” stands out as a song where this effect is most prominently displayed. The sweet spot guitar rift gets pushed back while vocals expand to the foreground. The majority of tracks on Turn Into invert the structure of “Unlimited Touch.” Instrumentals function as an effervescent ear maze, a bubbling surface under which Duterte’s lyrics seem to float. In spite of their derision, “You smoked the rest of me and crushed me on the cracked cement / If you're so bored if you're so grown why don't you run away?” the lyrics remain somewhat concealed by other layers of sound in “Peach Boy” and others. At the end of “Next to Me,” the declaration “You've lit a fire inside my bones,” is barely audible. “Drown” starts with drums, a lazy guitar forms the next layer, and finally Duterte’s voice rounds off the sound. But the vocals can’t maintain their buoyancy. They drown under the gauzy layers only to float back up for the final line, an appropriately weightless, “It fills the air.”
The title Turn Into also functions as a description of what the album is doing both lyrically and instrumentally; constantly turning into something else. On the final track, which carries the same name as the album, Duterte’s voice is low and soft, like an unsweetened version of Broadcast’s Trish Keenan. The lyrics focus on the behavior of different manifestations of selfhood, like being abandoned by one’s shadow, stalked by a reflection. Specifically, Duterte is counting on the shadow’s return as evidence that she exists: “As long as it is gone / I won’t be here for long.” Eventually, she gets tired of waiting and takes things into her own hands, deciding, “I’m coming home.” After being out in the world, amongst the noise of others, Turn Into turns in to face itself, a homecoming we never acknowledge.
Listen to Jay Som on bandcamp.
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Ana Bauer is a frizzy-haired girl and student at Bard College who tweets from @anadelray when she isn’t talking about Twitter in real life.