Jennifer Terran is a singer-songwriter/pianist and hip hop dance instructor whom some might describe as a breath of fresh air. Once one listens to her music, however, they might be more likely to describe her as a new-born breeze. Her often light, airy signature sound is self-described as being of the “emotive universal” genre.
But who exactly is this indie artist? Terran, born and raised in Los Angeles, came from a musical background. Her father was successful session musician trumpeter Tony Terran. He performed with many influential artists the Beatles, Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Zappa.
Her mother, Adele Kathryn, was an artist, dancer and singer. No surprise then that Terran began singing and performing at age 4 and studying the piano at age 8.
Soon after graduating from college she would began writing songs. By the late 1990s she had established her own music label, Grizelda Records, adding the credit of producer to her musical resume. Her debut disc, Cruel, was released in 1996. 14 tracks including the regionally apropos “L.A. 101” and “Trader Joe’s” as well as the title track “Cruel”.
Her second solo effort was Rabbit. Released in 1998, this is an 8- track CD that includes the memorable “Junkdrawer Waltz” and titular tune “Rabbit”. It was followed by the 14-track disc The Musician in 2001.
It featured the noteworthy opening track “Liberty Lunch”, “Grand Canyon” and the seasonal “Santa’s Secret”. In 2002 the Sunday Times chose it as its second best album of the year. It was even given a four-star rating by Rolling Stone.
In 2004 Terran put out a live release. It was appropriately titled Live from Painted Cave. It included 15 live versions of songs she had previously performed and/or released.
2005 witnessed the birth of Full Moon in 3. This featured a dozen ditties such as the fitting “The America Song” and the memorable “Multiorgasmic 3”. Two years (2007) later her recording of the classic “Que Sera Sera” was selected for use featured in Dell computer commercial.
She would step into the recording studio again in 2008 and not emerge until 2012. The end result would be what many would call her best work yet. The 20-cut disc was titled Born from the Womb of Silence. Terran (lead vocals, body percussion, echoplex, finger piano, keyboards, piano and string arrangements) composed all the songs and is backed by an assortment of additional artists including: Todd Sickafoose (bass), Danny Frankel (drums and percussion), Tim Young (electric guitar and banjo), Misha Bodnar (cello), Lorand Lokuszta (violin), Phoebe Moon Ray (background vocals)and Ada Sycamore Ray (voice).
The CD opens on “Open Overture for Mot My Muse”. This is a musical mélange of electronics and production techniques vaguely reminiscent of material by Yello or The Residents. It’s an apt intro in terms of Terran’s creativity perhaps but reveals nothing about her talents as a singer or musician.
“Born from the Womb of Silence” is next. This titular track is the first clue as to Terran’s abilities. It works well in terms of opening an album about such subjects as motherhood and personal perils.
The next number is “Once”. The composition here seems somehow Beatles-influenced or perhaps more experimental Brian Wilson in terms of what Terran uses and what she does with it. It’s followed by the short but sweet “Night Gives to Day”.
“Poppy Seed” is next. It is already clear that Terran is taking us on a journey through her personal past. “Wedding Day” is both unique and further evidence of Terran’s telling a tuneful tale taken from times in her life.
While it is unclear what the brief break “Pincher Bug Rewind” is meant to be it somehow fits into this building ballad of birth and living life. It’s an aural pallet cleanser clearly along the lines of other interjections employed by such acts as Beck, The Steve Miller Band and Pink Floyd.
The eighth offering is named “Landon Ray”. This one is a tuneful tip of the hat to the love of her life and the co-producer of some of Terran’s best non-musical efforts as focused upon in later songs. The multi-cultural music of “Metisse” is next as Terran continues to reveal more of her own explorations as mommy teaches a lesson in a lullaby-like manner.
“Ada Wind” also includes Terran’s sometimes ethereal vocals. It has a clever pun in the lyrics and also serves as an intimate musical metaphor as perhaps do other moments on the work. It’s followed by “Together” which further demonstrates Terran’s ability of making each cut different while still injecting them with unifying elements of her signature sound.
“Monkey Moo” comes off as kinda cute. No doubt it was meant to in that it reflects upon her family. It works well as an original lullaby in fact.
Continuing along a similar theme is “Phoebe Walking”. This is a song undoubtedly written to somehow document building block moments in a child’s life. It’s kind of “poppy” and one can easily imagine this as a soundtrack to some child’s first steps and early childhood achievements.
The tune “Two Inch Man” is next. It has that two-level appeal like Shrek or the old Batman TV series in that it sounds like a song that would appeal to children while containing lyrics that are aimed at adults: “The two inch man will advise you to be cautious, burn your junk mail/never marry again/Experience is a tricky little bastard that can lead you to believe you are wise”.
“Railia” with a running time of over 5 and a quarter minutes, is the lengthiest track here as Terran injects this one with her more vocally experimental moments. The sixteenth selection is “Peppers”. Fittingly, this is an airy audio complete with peppy moments.
“The Dot” and “Meadow of Sound” lead us towards the end of harmonic hike through Terran’s further reflections to the final song “Between These Doors” which was actually praised by early critics. The closing cut is “Silence”. It’s literally 38 seconds of nothing as Terran comments on both the end of life as well as “from which all things arise”.
Born from the Womb of Silence is obviously influenced by those around her and is chock full of what she calls “reflections on life universal, the beauty, the muck, the expanse”. It focuses on heartfelt familial themes, fear and alienation all melded into music. Terran, currently based in Santa Barbara, CA, seems to express herself best through her music. Perhaps the best way to truly experience her music is simply to listen to it. So try Jennifer Terran’s Born from the Womb of Silence “Once” and see what you think.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.