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Me Lost Me
RPG Jared Dix , July 5th, 2023 08:33

From Newcastle, via Upset the Rhythm, Jayne Dent explores folk art and futurism to spellbinding effect, finds Jared Dix

As its title hints the new album from Jayne Dent’s Me Lost Me project explores storytelling and world building in video games, transposing ancient and modern by interleaving folk traditions and futurism. Inhabiting, imagining. Different worlds, other identities. At the surface level this reflects the twisting together of her sweet folk voice and processed electronic sound but we aren’t here for simple binaries; RPG wriggles with ideas, pushing against the porous border between everyday life and the mythological spaces of gaming and folklore.

‘Real World’ welcomes us with wordless distorting vocal loops and twittering electronic birds swirling around interview snippets about real life moments that felt like video games. The idea is expanded on ‘Eye Witness’, which presents a vision of a fistfight in the mirrored stairwell of a nightclub. There’s no anger or fear, just an amused fascination in the exploded visual spectacle it affords. The striking multiplicity of it: “thousands of men, tumbling down, to the bottom floor together...”

‘Festive Day’ begins in fiddle and drone. The ambient resounding of ancient space blurs into sparse modern production. The music is remarkable throughout the album, rich, elegant, spacious and full of surprises – although the voice does have a tendency to steal the limelight. The elemental charm of ‘Mirie it is While Summer I Last’, one the oldest songs in English, is hard to deny. We can hear its echoes in ‘The Oldest Tree Holds The Earth’, a mythic dream of the inner life of trees, becoming one with the forest. Written by silently passing a sheet of paper back and forth with Ditte Elly (a fellow Newcastle folk-ster of Danish heritage) as they sat in the woods outside Aarhus, the manner of its creation is almost like the setting of one of the songs.

Each track is a little role-playing game – or perhaps another level, interconnected but discrete. The album creates its own uncanny space. The symbolically charged cover shows a figure, an avatar in modern dress, stood at the centre of a Venn diagram of overlapping territories. A synth under her arm, she sprouts a tree for a head. Its red berries reveal it to be a rowan – a tree known as a portal, a traveller’s tree, a guard against witches. RPG casts a powerful spell but finds magic in the power of imagination rather than the supernatural. It is a celebration of the essentially human playfulness of gaming, storytelling and songs. On the closing hymn to creativity, ‘Science and Art’, any trace of formalism dissolves as Dent’s gentle voice and handclaps move with natural ease through a glowing cloud of sound, offering up the eternal spark, “not because we need it to last, just because we needed to make it.”