NOE VENABLE, JENNIFER TERRAN at Highland Grounds,
Not everybody can be both scary and vulnerable; Jennifer
Terran (pronounced tearin') can. The scary part is her voice, which spirals
into regions so high you fear she'll disappear or crash, and lately it
has acquired a diamond-dust edge that can saw through a stack of hearts,
first of all her own. Which is why her voice is also the vulnerable part,
but equally torn are her lyrics, even when the protagonist is the ripper
("Mad Magdalene," assassin of a record exec): Here's a woman who identifies
with trout ("trying, like I do"). Playing electric keyboard all alone,
Terran pulled her set list out of a hat, which isn't destructive to "pacing"
since her songs are so varied, some of the best proving to be ones she
hasn't yet released ‹ a simple moon song, and a dramatic Russian epic
bolstered by a drum machine and featuring one of her specialty ascendant
bridges. Terran is a truly original artist, currently making inroads in
Europe and reluctant to leave Santa Barbara for the evils of Los Angeles.
Can't blame her.
Also on the road was Bay Area songwriter Noe Venable,
though she has augmented her usual bandmates Todd Sickafoose and Alan
Lin with L.A. percussion master Dan Morris, and has attracted a coterie
of Angeleno musician fans (tonight Nels Cline and Carla Bozulich). A wispy
waif growing red hair down to her knees, Venable leans toward a sort of
Celtic Zep thing, her ensemble morphing into a counterbalanced hurdy-gurdy
unit as she bangs on acoustic guitar and sings in a piercing lilt about
being fearlessly lost; on top of that, she can pull off a talking-blues
rap, pure rhythm. She weaves that old spell, no getting around it. "I've
never responded to elfcore before Noe," Bozulich was heard to observe.
Later she amended that: "enchante