In the three short years since Johanneke Kranendonk unveiled her project Jo Marches, she has proven to be unpredictable. At one moment, she weaves a synth-driven, disco-punk tune that echoes the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. She then quickly she spins a psychedelic-pop trip a la Tame Impala. Suddenly, she concocts an industrial-driven, krautrock-infused number. One trait, however, is common to all her songs – her tendency to craft stories that are either cinematic in their scope or fairy tale-esque in their imagination. Her debut EP, Silver & Gold, offered a glimpse of Kranendonk’s potential, but her sophomore extended player, Day In Day Out, reveals the full extent of her vast talent.
With a full band backing her that includes co-founder David Hoogerheide (synth) as well as Manuel van den Berg (guitar), Max Abel (bass), and Tobias Ponsioen (drums), Kranendonk delivers a meandering yet stirring record. No two songs are the same, and instead surprises are revealed at every turn. Opener “You’ll Be Mine” is the perfect gateway into Jo Marches’ multi-dimensional world, as synth, neo-psychedelia, disco-pop, and a dash of Goth-punk collide. It is like Kate Bush fronting Tame Impala, and the byproduct is a song that is simultaneously groovy yet sinister. Even Kranendonk’s lush delivery of the words, “I want your love”, induces goosebumps.
Synth-pop perfection is achieved on the buzzing “Monsters”. The track is vibrant and alluring, bouncy yet intimate, and complex yet immediate. The interplay between the synths and rhythms recall Melody’s Echo Chamber and Nite Jewel while the distant crystalline guitar is reminiscent of New Order’s approach of building layers to heighten a song’s intoxication. Despite the bright and moving soundscape, Kranendonk describes the anxiety that is growing inside her due to the monsters – who are politicians – that seem to be everywhere:
“Somebody hold my hand,
I think I’m seeing monsters.
Starting all over again,
And I’m only growing stronger.”
The band heads into darker and more intimate corners with the brooding, psyche-pop number “Move”. The tune is Tame Impala gone bleak and spiraling down into an endless abyss. However, the free-fall is within one’s mind, as she learns to cope with a live alone.
“So tell me what it’s all about.
You’re sure you have it figured out?
I won’t rush you when I want to wait,
It might be too late.
Think what you have to think,
Don’t count me in.
Don’t want to blink and it’s over.
Do what you have to do,
Don’t slow me down.
Don’t want to hear what you’re saying.”
Jo Marches heads into to 1970s Berlin with the industrial-driven “Breaks My Heart”, and the result is mesmerizing. A dark, languid vibe echoes in the song, as the extended synth and the trembling percussion create a haunting yet titillating soundscape. As the song progresses, its crescendo reaches a brooding, awe-inspiring height akin to the music in Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049. Add in Kranendonk’s ethereal vocals, and the track could be the love ballad for Rachel and Rick Deckard.
The band return to their wide-eyed ways on the stunning “Clearing”. Neo-psychedelic atmospherics merge with Maribou State-esque rhythms to form a hallucinating experience. As the band craft the sonic spell, Kranendonk delivers a message that aims to get listeners out of their shells and to reveal themselves. Through her urgent voice, she encourages people to unveil “the secrets you’ve been hiding” and allow her to carry some of the burden. Once they can “tell the truth”, only then can they “stand tall, we move on” and “cross the bridge” to a new life.
The EP comes to a close with the solemn and chilling “Dido”. Through the minimalist instrumentation, the band still deliver a deliriously haunting song. From the slow pulses of the synth to Kranendonk’s soft yet desperate vocals, a mystery slowly builds around a single soul. As she walks alone under the pale moonlight, she believes “the joke was on me”. Despite the track’s despiar, it reveals that Jo Marches can do more than just dazzle and leave listeners entranced. Their music can also unexpectedly arouse our primal instincts. They are, after all, full of surprises with one Johanne Kranendonk leading the way.
Day In Day Out is out now and available on the usual streaming and purchase sites.
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