This release by performance artist/singer Judith Ren-Lay is a fascinating mixture of provocative lyrics, vocal acrobatics, studio innovations, eastern influences, and the proverbial kitchen sink. The overall sense of the work is more akin to artists like Laurie Anderson and Diamanda Galas than it is to what we generally think of as jazz. That said, this is high-quality improvised music that seems unconcerned about what genre it "belongs" to.
Ren-Lay's vocals employ an oscillating technique reminiscent of Galas. Several cuts are constructed out of several tracks of vocals by Ren-Lay, with and without other accompaniment. The siren-wail and sympathetic strings of "Born" brings to mind the late Tim Buckley's classic lp Starsailor, and echoes of that work can also be heard in "Nun's Revenge" and "Creature Parade."
Ren-Lay's interesting words (helpfully included as text) and her unique way of delivering them are the backbone of this recording and her talents are fortunately well met by the rest of the musicians on the CD. Guitarists Allan Jaffe and Brett Heinz are both unique players that, though not derivative of these artists, will likely appeal to fans of players like Richard Thompson, Marc Ribot, Fred Tackett and the many guitarists associated with Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band. Ken Butler proves a more than able accompanist on strings (including some of his own design) and Joe Gallant's bass admirably navigates the different musical territories the group stakes out.
Out of Nowhere is one of the best records so far in 2002. Judith Ren-Lay and associates have put forth a unique collection of sounds that transcend the arbitrary genre boundaries. If you want to be challenged by something new, I can think of no better place to start than here.