We are moving into the busy time of year for music releases. There are several albums I’m really looking forward to, and sometimes my focus can be completely on those works instead of looking around for hidden gems. Well, one of those hidden gems was sent to me recently, being Jodie Hayford’s debut album Shale. It honestly has become a delight, as it feels so fresh and different. The album released on August 10th.
Jodie comes to us from New York, NY. She appears to be an artist of multiple mediums, and music is just one of them. She handles vocals, keys, and guitar here, specifically “a Yamaha MX and inspired by Manuel Göttsching guitar tones”. She also receives support from Sarah Pez on backing vocals and bass, Andy Plovnick on drums, Daniel Gillian on drums, and Jack Billet on some vocals.
What we have here is one interesting sort of album. Shale could be called progressive rock, I guess, but it really leans heavily into electronic, krautrock, and psychedelic sounds. The songs are pretty freeform and, while structured to some extent, often move and coil with hidden or abstract ideas. You’ll hear some spoken word on one track, some vocals on a couple, and some harmonies on another, but it’s safe to say that the instrumental experience is the main focus here. The vocals, though, are great and add yet another layer to this eclectic tapestry.
This mind trip record doesn’t drown in its own novelty. It has clear melodies, purposeful writing, and controlled eccentricity. I love the subtlety that it possesses at times, as this is definitely a headphones sort of album for full appreciation. Sometimes, it just seems to be having fun, not taking itself too seriously; that is pretty rare in this type of music.
Shale has 6 tracks and clocks in around 37 minutes in length. The opener “Arches” grabbed me immediately with its golden nostalgia and playful spoken words. It reminds me of another artist, but I cannot think of whom that is for the life of me. Anyways, in addition to its soaked atmosphere, we get to hear Jodie’s guitars on this track, and she immediately establishes her style as decisively composed and allergic to meaningless noodling. That always perks my interest.
The next two tracks are a couple of favorites. “Heralding Heracles” is an abstract piece with all sorts of subtle elements turning it into a kaleidoscope of color and vibe. Scrambled fingerwork and focused though brief vocals really sell this piece. “A Straw in the Wind” comes next, and it has more of an acoustic and even slightly folk style to it. It reminds me of Atom Heart Mother or Ommadawn in various moments. I love this song.
The last three tracks are all wonderful. “Drive” is a short prelude, essentially, for “Noir Code”, the centerpiece of the album. “Drive” is beautiful in its own right, though. “Noir Code” is something more. It relishes atmosphere and elusive groove, and as it runs through its 10 minutes, it visits various guitar and electronic auras that are simply gorgeous. I love how Jodie has strung these parts together flawlessly and luxuriously, crafting a piece that is ethereal and sentimental. I love, too, how it sets the stage for “Pluto”, a muted and darker piece. This one feels very much like “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” in its more abstract and hovering moments, and I love every second. I love how it flows like liquid dreams of another world, another life. It has a rich quality to it, especially in the second half, that feels faintly cinematic and strongly spacey, nudging itself into interesting and attractive reverberations.
I’m glad that Jodie sent her album to me. Shale is one of those records that easily fixates me because of its attention to detail and effect. Instead of noodling endlessly, this record says what it wants to say, and it does so with bravado and meaningful discourse. The veteran restraint and committed composition here are admirable, to say the least. I’m looking forward to what Jodie will make next.
Find Jodie Hayford online: