Jane Weaver’s creative thirst remains unsated
Of all the most outlandish album concepts in the annals of pop music, the inspiration behind Jane Weaver’s The Silver Globe probably ranks somewhere in the middle. Released last year on Weaver’s own Finders Keepers label, the record takes many of its cues from Polish director Andrzej Żuławski’s obscure sci-fi flick Na Srebrnym Globie (On the Silver Globe). The film was shot in the mid-70s, but was suppressed by the communist Polish government until 1988 due to its subversive anti-totalitarian plot, which centres on building a new society on an unknown planet and ultimately overthrowing its oppressive indigenous occupants.
As if Żuławski’s communist-bashing sub-plot isn’t convoluted enough, Weaver then performs her own act of subversion in reinterpreting the filmmaker’s work as a metaphor for the changing state of the music industry, both aesthetically and on a narrative level. “The post-apocalyptic theme definitely struck a chord with me, the way I’ve been involved in the industry for donkey’s years,” she says with a soft Mancunian accent down a crackling phone line from her home. “I’ve seen so much change and it’s had a big effect on me as an artist too. I’m thinking, where is it all going to end, you know? How are people going to hear our music and how are we going to trade? Are there still going to be gold, platinum records or what?”
Weaver also sees parallels between the allegorical tale of the protagonists looking for a better life on a new planet and her own real-life experience of seeing artists chasing the nirvana of record deals, and the broken promises and relationships that often follow. “There have been a few bad seeds along the way in my time who’ve just said: ‘I’m going to use this template of yours’, or ‘I’m going to take all this that you’ve given me and I’m going try and do this somewhere else’ or whatever,” she says, alluding to her experience of running a label. “The grass isn’t always greener.”
The 42-year-old might have recorded an album partially indebted to the vagaries of life in outer space, but she’s spent the best part of her 23-year music career flying under the radar back here on Earth. Liverpool-born but Manchester-raised, she began her career fronting Britpop foursome Kill Laura in the early 90s before forming folktronica outfit Misty Dixon in 2002. That same year Weaver released her first solo album Like an Aspen Leaf and a further six have followed.
"The post-apocalyptic theme definitely struck a chord with me"
Critics tend to bung her into the psych-folk section next to the likes of Joanna Newsom, Meg Baird and the rest of the New Weird America gang, though Weaver herself has always distanced herself from the scene, stressing that she considers herself “a recording artist first and foremost.” Still, you’d be hard-pressed to argue that Linda Perhacs didn’t cast a sizeable shadow over the mystical reveries of Weaver’s previous album, The Fallen by Watchbird.
That was four years ago. Since then, Weaver’s nascent cosmic interests have been dovetailed by a stylistic pivot towards the kosmische sounds of krautrock. The singer’s breathy, classically English voice still floats above it all but where before there might have been an acoustic guitar or glockenspiel underneath, this time there’s a hulking motorik beat or a Hawkwind sample rumbling away. It all makes for quite a contrast, albeit an immensely enjoyable one – it may even be Weaver’s most satisfying release to date.
Is it fair to see the shift as a bit of a rebellion against type? “I was getting a bit bored with the singer-songwriter folk tag,” Weaver concedes. “But when I was doing gigs live as well, I wasn’t really enjoying trying to represent and do a whole album just by myself; I didn’t have a band at the time.” So Weaver assembled a solid supporting cast of collaborators. Working with soundtrack composer David Holmes and becoming inspired by his wealth of analogue equipment, the new LP also features guest appearances from pianist Suzi Ciani (who used to soundtrack old Atari videogame commercials), Damon Gough (Badly Drawn Boy) and her husband, DJ and producer Andy Votel. “The community we’ve got at Finders Keepers and all over the world really is brilliant.”
All the plaudits have come at a cost, though. Weaver has suggested her next release might need to be on a smaller scale than her recent bombastic turn. “After the new record was done I was exhausted,” she laughs, wearily. “I couldn’t imagine doing this kind of thing again. Next time might just be something quite stark and minimal and me alone, not necessarily acoustic…” But less stressful? “Yeah, because it will literally have an effect on my health if I do anything like that again!” Either way, Weaver’s continuously evolving vision guarantees another beguiling listen.
The Silver Globe is out now via Finders Keepers Records. Catch Jane Weaver at Field Day, Victoria Park, London, 7 June