Reviewed by Michael Chamy, Fri., June 7, 2002
Jasmine StarIt came wrapped in a cardboard sleeve with no credits, adorned with a grainy black-and-white photo of a woman with a guitar. Inside, Jasmine Star reveals a whispery Hope Sandoval-like voice, accompanied by bare-bones slide guitar, piano, and most distinctively, the buzzing drone of an Indian classical tanpura. An Internet search reveals a pair of intense, high-traffic fan sites for this Jandek-like local enigma, one in particular being full of lurid stories of mental illness and psychedelic drugs. Vague pieces of info and conjecture surrounding this group credits a singer by the name of "Z," who was apparently an active local performance artist and musician in the late Eighties before falling into severe drug addiction and psychosis. The group draws its name from the star jasmine plant, which contains the therapeutic psychoactive compound ibogaine, which Z apparently had some sort of transcendent experience with. The singer may still reside in a local mental institution, this album reportedly recorded in secret within the walls of the institution itself. No telling if these stories are true or contrived, but what rings painfully true is this intimate recording, filled with the sad, haunted beauty of Z's voice and tortured lyrics, her pain anesthetized by the soothing drone that surrounds this shadowy, sympathetic figure. The gaps in the music, and the story, are fertile ground for the active imagination.