Last year, I stumbled upon Plight by Jenn Taiga. I don’t recall exactly what I was expecting but it certainly wasn’t what I ended up getting and I mean that in the best possible sense. Maybe I was expecting to hear a synthwave album or perhaps my expectations were of something more vaguely electronic. Regardless, what I ended up listening to was a sprawling, psychedelic, mind-bending electronic journey. The album is comprised of two tracks, each over twenty minutes long, and maybe that should have been my first clue that things are not as they seem? These two tracks are as ambitious as they are well executed, weaving a dark tapestry of emotional conflux, eerie atmosphere and a ton of influence from a large range of sounds, starting with dark EDM, running through synthwave, dungeon synth, and even some techno, and all the way to progressive rock and psychedelic music.
All of this explains why I was extremely excited to learn that the project was keying up for another release in the form of Lunar Nocturnes and Esoteric Incantations. I was even more excited when early press for this album described it as comprising of two distinct works melded into one, releases which promised to dive deeper into the progressive influences that make Taiga’s sound run. This time, I did get exactly what I expected and wanted; the album sees Taiga expand their sound. Or, I should rather say deepen their sound as the album presents both more brooding and more lush soundscapes at the same time.
In order to unravel this intricate work, and get a closer understanding of one of the more unique electronic artist around, I reached out to Jenn to chat with them on what makes their music tick. You can find that interview below! Before/after you read, make sure to head on down to the Bandcamp link below and grab the album. If you’re a fan of forward-thinking, expansive, and challenging music, this one is for you.
Hey Jenn! Thanks for taking the time to chat with me. Can you start us off by walking us through the process which led you to compose Lunar Nocturnes and Esoteric Incantations, your latest release? It seems to be structured differently from previous releases, which were built as one, continuous journey. What spurred this change?
Always a pleasure, Eden! I appreciate you reaching out. So this new album, Lunar Nocturnes and Esoteric Incantations, actually came about by accident. The first side of it, Lunar Nocturnes, shows four songs that I wrote while writing a film score for a private client. The movie was a thriller about werewolves, and I was told to get “mid-late 70’s Tangerine Dream vibes” with it. Which is pretty squarely in my wheelhouse save for the fact that this client wanted shorter songs to accommodate being used in a film. I took these four songs aside for myself because I liked them a lot, and figured I’d put them out at some point, and kinda forgot about them for a while (this was in late 2019/early 2020).
The second half of the album, Esoteric Incantations was written and recorded in the summer and fall of 2020. “Braziers are Burning” was a song that I wrote for the “NOISE IS POLITICAL 2020” compilation put together by my good friend and synth sis Helena Ford to raise money for the National Community Bail Fund. I tried to capture a lot of the anger, pain, and anxiety that we were all feeling at the protests, but present it in a way that showed focus towards a goal. The last song, “…As Our Offerings Rise To The Heavens,” was one I wrote after meeting my girlfriend in person for the first time in early September. After I wrote “Braziers are Burning,” you see, I had been going through what is likely the most severe case of artistic doubt I’d ever experienced thus far. Like really, I was *this close* to quitting music altogether, it was fucking rough.
When we finally got to meet; which is to say, when I was able to experience holding her hand, seeing her eyes light up in excitement, and generally reveling in her presence, I was filled with this burning, stirring feeling in my gut that made me want to create. So when I arrived back at home, I started writing the song. I wanted to capture some of the feelings of melancholic longing that we had been feeling at that point (the hopeful optimism of a freshly officiated relationship combined with the uncertainty of a long-distance arrangement) that many of us lesbians refer to as “The Yearning,” but through a dungeon synth and kosmische lens. Most folks I know agree that one of the hallmarks of dungeon synth is the feeling of melancholic longing so many of the genre’s songs can evoke, and I felt like having that come from something so blatantly “non-dungeony” as sapphic romance was a fun and interesting take on it. Personally, it’s my favorite song on the album.
One thing that’s always drawn me to your music is the range of sounds you display from progressive rock (like those big synths on “King of Swords”, for example). Have you always been a progressive rock fan? What are your main influences from that field?
I fucking LOVE prog rock. Prog was my first real introduction to contemporary music when I was a teenager (prior to a music teacher forcing me to listen to ELP’s “Brain Salad Surgery,” I was exclusively a classical music douche), and it has made a profound impact on how I approach music. So of course, Keith Emerson/ELP is pretty foundational to my playing, as are cats like Rick Wakeman/Yes, Hawkwind, Kansas, Rush, Gentle Giant. Lots of those 70’s bands.
I really do love “King of Swords” by the way; it seems like one of your tracks most filled with dread and apprehension. Am I reading that right? How do you go about channeling different emotions into electronic music, which can often be “alien” or “distant” to the listener?
Thank you so much, I really appreciate the compliment! For the most part, I don’t actively try to channel specific emotions into my music. Wordless music of any stripe, ultimately, is up to the interpretation of the listener, and as such I feel it’s a bit of a fool’s errand to try and coax anything specific with this sort of music. I might go for something a bit vague, or have my own personal inspirations for the songs, but largely I want the listeners to determine what and why my music makes them feel. As for the music being “alien” or “distant,” I again think that has more to do with the listener than the music. Personally, I think that my music is more or less run of the mill insofar as how I write and play it, but a lot of people tend to view it as unfamiliar, or like you said, “alien.”
Shifting more to the macro level, what’s your take on the current state of the dungeon synth “scene” or “sound”? It seems as if there’s been a sharp rise in popularity over the last few months. Would you agree with that? What do you think is driving increasing interest in the genre, if that’s indeed happening?
Most definitely, dungeon synth has been taking OFF over the past year-ish; I’m thankful for it, too. A big part of it, I think, is from all the effort that the Northeast Dungeon Synth crew have been putting into things over the past year and a half. Between NEDS itself, NEDSTV with features like Analog Dungeon and Of Guild and Craft, as well as the monthly Dungeon Skirmishes that were a staple for many people across most of 2020, they’ve really been helping to “spread the good word,” so to speak. More generally, I think that 2020 was a year that made a lot of people turn to escapism to cope with everything, and dungeon synth is very much a genre that suits itself to escapism. That said, I hope that the popularity of dungeon synth keeps growing. It’s a genre that makes a whole lot of people real happy, and I feel like there are a lot of people out there who would enjoy it, but just haven’t been exposed to it for one reason or another.
Finally, tell us a little bit about the future of your music. What’s next for Jenn Taiga? Are you planning more experimentations in the vein of Lunar Nocturnes and Esoteric Incantations, more compositions in the style of your previous releases or are you just waiting to see where inspiration takes you?
I’ve got a good bit planned for the future, musically speaking. Right now, I’ve got maybe 3-5 different splits in varying stages of planning, all with artists and bands of somewhat different styles. That’s something I did intentionally, as I enjoy adapting and changing my style to fit certain contexts while still retaining it’s own distinct identity (which is why I love playing on mixed bill shows when performing is a thing). So those will likely feature both shorter and more long-form songs. In addition to that, I’m planning on releasing the audio from my Northeast Dungeon Siege MMXXI performance as an album on cassette, and I’ve been drafting up both an EP and a full length album. I can’t really say *when* any of these will happen, and they’ll likely be spread out over the course of the next year or two. Most excitingly (for me, at least), I am also a permanent member of Mesa (a band founded by Putrescine mainstay Marie McAuliffe), and will be working with her on that after the release of their first full length album, “Collapse.” I’m anticipating that will keep me pretty busy; Marie is a brilliant songwriter and is great at coming up with complex stuff, so combined with my own musical predilections, there will undoubtedly be a lot of parts to write and record. I can’t fucking wait!