Rose Hobart is proud to announce the reissue of Jay Clarkson’s 1999 masterpiece Kindle, available on vinyl for the first time. Clarkson is one of Aotearoa/New Zealand’s most singular songwriters, with a history that includes membership of The Playthings and The Expendables, both groups who released records with the legendary New Zealand label Flying Nun, as well as subsequent solo albums, along with her bands Breathing Cage and (now) The Containers.
Clarkson wrote and recorded Kindle after relocating from Christchurch to Dunedin in the mid ‘90s, settling into a new mode of music making and embracing the possibilities of home recording. Supported with funding from Creative NZ, Clarkson bought a four-track recorder – the tried and trusted Tascam 424 Mark II, the cornerstone of any good, selfrespecting home studio – and set about to make perhaps her most hushed, gorgeous set of songs yet.
For the songs on Kindle, Clarkson approached lyric writing differently – for a number of songs, she used what she has called the “open a book at random and point your finger” method to get her creativity flowing, borrowing (with adjustments) from Graham Greene and Thomas Merton, amongst others, locating evocative potential in found language and then expanding outwards. Elsewhere, Clarkson’s songs are sparked by people and events that coincide with her everyday life, or they become more philosophically reflective, as in the hypnotic Wheeling, where a repeating, intricate web of guitar underscores a song reflecting life’s dualities and circularity.
The album’s sound world is deep and dappled, with clacking drum machines (loaned to Jay by Robert Scott of The Clean and The Bats), richly wound guitars, and humming keyboards all providing a perfect setting for Clarkson’s astonishing voice, which is at once generous and wry. Clarkson has previously reflected upon the “transitional headspace” she was in while writing and recording Kindle, and that certainly seems to have informed the emotional complexity of these songs and performances – it’s an album of grace and wisdom.
Clarkson would go on to make more music, such as her lovely 2007 album, Over The Mountain, recorded with Johannes Contag, and a recent solo set, Spur, released on Austrian label Zelle in 2015. She continues to perform live when circumstances allow, with her group The Containers, and in 2016 was invited to perform at the Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow. But Kindle stands as singular in her catalogue and her career – a moment of inwards reflection, things pared back to basics, Jay alone in the home studio, writing for the intimacies of the moment.
2. Broken House
3. Walk Away
4. This Clown
5. Faint Blue Line Of Chalk
6. Whiskey Priest
9. Absolute Poverty