Jessica Moss. Photo by Joseph Yarmush
As a longtime member of Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra and founding member of Black Ox Orkestar — and a frequent collaborator of a range of local and international artists — Jessica Moss is a cornerstone in the Montreal experimental music scene. The violinist’s use of her traditionally classical instrument transcends expectation.
Pools of Light is a deeply emotive work: the music has the ability to resonate with the listener (at least this one) for days in a surprising way. Combining sound art and signal-processed timbres, the returning choruses of dark riffs and leads that cull from traditional roots are cut firmly into the album’s two sides. The music swells with an elegiac heaviness that evolves seamlessly from one track to the next.
Natalia Yanchak: When did you decide to start writing Pools of Light?
Jessica Moss: I honestly thought that I would never make solo work. If you had asked me even three years ago, I would have said, “No way — I am a collaborator with every fibre of my being, and I’m happy that way.” It started almost by accident about two and a half years ago. It was a combination of collaborating with a friend who lived on the other side of the continent and a commission out of the blue for the first Montreal Biennale: then this music started pouring out of me and hasn’t really stopped.
NY: What inspires you to make music?
JM: I kind of feel like music is more my natural voice than words are. I feel more comfortable expressing myself that way, and I guess right now I feel I have a lot to say. I’m moved to respond to the way I’m seeing and feeling the world.
NY: You’re also a visual artist. Does your visual work ever intersect with the aural?
JM: Never before now so directly, but I am currently spending very many of my waking hours working on a long video piece to accompany the second half of the record, “Glaciers I and II.” Although I’m constantly filming and taking photos, I’ve never spent much time with a video program before, and after a few days I realized that I’m finding the experience of editing this video very similar to the experience of editing that side of the album. I find myself looking for elements that have clear meaning as stand-alone images, that when combined work together to say a third thing. I think I had that same intention with parts of the music. I realized from this experience that my brain works similarly when creating music and creating visual work.
NY: This is an unsettling and haunting work. What were you seeking to express through it?
JM: Well each piece I write has a fairly clear narrative, I mean it’s clear to me what it is. I kind of imagine what I’m trying to do as wordless storytelling. When I play, I’m telling stories of some of the beauty and horror of the world as I see it, as I imagine a lot of us see it. There is so much obvious injustice everywhere as the result of the structures of capitalism; so many of the world’s populations are facing violence wrought by so few. The fucking glaciers are melting! And we can all see it, all the time. I guess I’m seeking to express a version of what I imagine we’re all collectively feeling right now, in a way that is open to however anyone wants to engage with it.
NY: Will you only be performing Pools Of Light at your upcoming Montreal show?
JM: Yes! I’m aiming to perform it in its entirety. I’ve been playing the first half — “Entire Populations” — for quite some time now, but the second half will be performed for the very first time. I’ll be joined on stage by my sister Nadia Moss. We’re working it out in the jam space now, it’s such a pleasure to be playing music with her again — she’s so crazy talented. We will be doing the Montreal, Toronto and New York launch shows together. Super excited about it! ■
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