By Brian Tucker
In the Key of J isn’t something wholly different to come out of Wilmington’s music scene, there have been bands to release mostly instrumental albums – Unholy Tongues, The Title Ceremony, Virgin Lung, Youth League. But cello player Jude Eden’s elegant and somber new collection of material is different in the wake of the last few years of local releases.
Eden’s work here is mostly instrumental (see videos below), along with two covers and a spoken word track at album’s close. The album serves a window into what she’s interested in and the spectrum of what she’s capable of creating (her next album will be spoken word). The covers are interesting (Nirvana’s “Something in the Way” and the soothing “Canon” by Johann Pachelbel) but what resonates strongest are instrumental tracks.
Foremost, this is graceful, wonderful music. It can feel haunted at times, like album opener “Cascades,” whose melody remains long after ending. “Spy vs. Spy” has a prickly, delicate quality while “Morning Glory” has an Asian subtext (perhaps only to my ears), but the track’s heartbeat rhythm underneath adds to this perceived imagery. “Faye’s Voyage” follows this personality, a song Eden wrote by request in memory of a friend’s mother who passed from cancer. Eden said it wasn’t written about the battle, but the reflection of maternal love.
There’s lovingness to “Whales,” even as it descends into bittersweet ambiance. Her playing is careful and deliberate, and while the cello itself bears much of the personality, Eden’s playing illustrates an intimacy, an internal quality across much of the album’s material. This is pertinent on “La Ramblas,” a just over two minute instrumental that is tender but cuts deep. It continues on “The Seafarer,” one of the best tracks here after “Cascades.”
Eden has spoken of traveling influences on her work, whether the Middle Eastern flavors in minor keys she plays or time spent in Spain or Fallujah. These influences are subtext, coursing through the veins of these songs. It also highlights her availability of styles and abilities. A former Marine, she has been involved in local music since around 2008, working with Stephen Sellers in low.victor.echo or in the duo Upstarts & Rogues with Jeff Sanchez.
In the Key of J is music beautiful and likely to make one feel a little introspective. Cover songs and one spoken word take the listener out of the experience briefly but don’t harm the whole.