Jasmina Maschina: Alphabet Dream Noise (Staubgold)
“Folktronica” — what an unfortunate genre music journalists conjured up to explain the merging of computer music and acoustic guitar / songwriting that probably first came en vogue around the turn of the millennium. Jasmina Maschina (née Jasmine Guffond) combines these elements in various ways on her debut album, although I’d say ultimately these are songs with off-kilter embellishments. At the core of most of these tracks, Jasmina sings over delicate guitar, with varying amounts of arrangement around this focal point. In many cases it’s as subtle as some odd tremolo effects and details that intermingle with her core songwriting; a good example of this is “Marry Me,” a great gloomy song where her voice and playing really shine through the addition layering and detailing. At times she harnesses tension quite well, such as on the dramatic tremolo of opener “Scott Free” or the vaguely microtonal bends of “Community,” but at other times her songwriting is borderline twee, quite sweet, like the lullaby-like simplicity of “Sun.” Despite the simple truth that Jasmina’s songs here are actually fairly conventional if not for some tweaked details and overtones, there’s something about the album that keeps me coming back. It feels simultaneously dreamlike and friendly without being cloying or precious; there’s an unassuming quality to these that feels intimate and personal, and she’s letting us eavesdrop.