Album Review: An Overview on Phenomenal Nature by Cassandra Jenkins
Excellent, Based on 4 Critics
Under The Radar - 85 Based on rating 8.5/10
Cassandra Jenkins' sophomore album, An Overview on Phenomenal Nature , is premised on the hopes for a better year ahead and a promise of personal reconstruction. Based on references in the album, presumably that year would have been 2020 , in the aftermath of the suicide of David Berman, whose Purple Mountains' tour brigade she was enlisted for. If 2020 didn't do many of us much good, it provided time for reflection and a gapped out distance from what came before.
Three songs into An Overview on Phenomenal Nature, we hear a sampled monologue: "So, these are real things that happen," it begins. The speaker is a security guard at Manhattan's now-closed Met Breuer museum, and the person on the receiving end, recording the voice memo and presenting it to us, is songwriter Cassandra Jenkins. A New York native as interested in telling stories as she is in collecting them, Jenkins seems to kick into action when people preface their thoughts this way--when she senses someone about to reveal something honest and intimate and useful.
Just as the sky pales to muted pink, a cluster of light appears suspended in air. Is it a trick of the eye, or have stars congregated on the shore? Cassandra Jenkins' An Overview on Phenomenal Nature lives in this moment -- the real and not real, the second glance. It's a near-complete reimagining of the New York songwriter's sound; an iridescent folk-jazz odyssey dizzyingly rich with detail and craft.
An Overview on Phenomenal Nature by Cassandra Jenkins Cassandra Jenkins' songs coalesce out of fog and tenderness, her voice no more than a murmur as she confides exacting bits of poetry right into your ear. Elusive textures of saxophone, keyboards, drums and strings float around her like a pastel colored aura; she floats a warm thread of melody through ambient soundscapes. A lifetime New Yorker from a bohemian family on the West Side, she's been kicking around for most of the decade, at various times playing bass in Eleanor Friedberger's band and supporting Craig Finn.