You probably know the name Nicolle "Two-Ls" Jensen from her stint with Balkan folk group Rumelia, but did you know that in addition to layin' down the traditional tunes of places like Macedonia, Turkey and Bulgaria, the multi-instrumentalist/vocalist has been quietly working on a solo release of her own, called Water? Playing into the concepts of the elements, the grand connectivity of life, the universe, everything, Water is the culmination of Jensen's life experience, education and personal emotion, a departure from what you may expect in its chill-out, electronica vibe, but an overall package that not only serves as an experimental foray into parts unknown for the longtime musician but means transforming difficult life changes into something meaningful and positive.
"It was interesting how [this project] evolved," Jensen says. "My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, and it started out as me making relaxing tracks for her to listen to while she was in the hospital, and they continue to grow, so I'd very much say it was something that came along almost as a part of her illness—but it feels fun to say I didn't have any intention to set off on some big project; it emerged so naturally."
And if the ultimate goal was to create relaxing and comforting songs for a loved one, Jensen nailed it while holding on to a certain raw aspect that ups the accessibility for anyone. Electronic music can be a confusing labyrinth of tropes, clichés, sub-genrefication and an almost clique-ish set of unspoken rules. For Jensen, however, there is what one might call innocence that comes across as refreshingly unpretentious yet deceptively simple and welcoming. From the quiet, ambient moments that stir an almost primal, corporeal response to haunting lo-fi beat work that keeps things feeling authentic or the calming chants and vocals, it's basically like she's stumbled onto something special without adhering to any vision outside of her own. Yes, there are familiar aspects to these tracks, but Jensen's take on this particular amalgamation of styles makes them seem different in ways that aren't obvious. She even manages to sidestep (just barely, though) the ridiculousness of New Age. All descriptions aside, Water is supposed to be about those ultimate tenets of music—communication, connection and emotion.
"I would say I'm experimenting with emotions and that I've been inspired to be doing things in a different way than I've ever done them before," Jensen tells SFR. "I just got reminded that all of us have a finite time and that we all die in the middle of something…my mom was only 55 and had art projects in her closet she was going to finish, so it's this impetus, this turning point, I suppose, about figuring out what is really important, what one might want out of their lives, and for me, it's the most natural thing in the world."
That's beautiful and also apparent in the tracks she has released online thus far (soundcloud.com/nicollejensen), but there is still work left to do. Not satisfied with a basic release or, thank God, willing to spearhead a Kickstarter campaign, Jensen presents her songs at an upcoming listening party/no-pressure fundraiser at YogaSource. The ultimate goal, she says, is to be able to release an album along with a 24-page art book showcasing the translations of the vocals and chants she uses as well as her work in visual and photographic art.
"I graduated college with an interdisciplinary art degree, because I've never felt like one mode of art does it for me, and what really intrigues me is when [a project] is multidisciplinary," Jensen says excitedly. "It's not about making money for me, but I want to share this, and if people at the listening party like what I'm doing, they can support me."
Even for those of us who basically always prefer actual instruments to laptop musicianship, Jensen's tracks are interesting. It can be easy to stick to misplaced convictions of musical taste formed early on in life, but listening with an open mind is encouraged. Jensen's willingness to foray into the unknown and share the results is absolutely exciting for music fans, no matter what you know you love the most.
Nicolle Jensen Listening Party
7:30 pm Friday, Oct. 2. No cover.
YogaSource, 815 Early St., Ste. A, 982-0990
Santa Fe Reporter