Into The Light That I Have Known, Kristina Jung’s debut EP, has been likened to Nico’s solo work, but as the first syllables of opener King With No Throne settle on a lacework of delicate acoustic guitar it is another German singer-songwriter that comes to mind: Sibylle Baier. The clarity of Jung’s singing and the minimal simplicity of the musicianship recall Baier’s brief and lovely vignettes. But it soon becomes apparent that Jung is not content to stop there. Whereas Baier’s songs were flickering, ephemeral vignettes, Jung clearly has something of the epic in her approach. King With No Throne grows with outward ripples, its edges bearing little resemblance to its core. It is a technique that allows the music to evolve in synchronisation with the narrative growth of the song.
This disregard for traditional structure is apparent over all of the five tracks on the EP. Show Me Where You Hide Your Longing is probably the closest things get to formulaic folk or pop, with its ‘Love’s an illusion’ refrain and its finger-picked musical canvass, but two-thirds of the way into the song Jung’s swooping voice begins to cut swathes in the fabric of the song, and it is never quite the same afterwards. I’m A Bird Now is almost reminiscent of Vashti Bunyan in its nursery-rhyme brevity, but contains darker notes than anything Bunyan has written.
On the brooding Wish You Were A Hunter Jung flirts with the acoustic blues murder ballad genre, sounding initially like a toned-down PJ Harvey or Scout Niblett, before a clouded, dusty piano and atmospheric backing vocals add an extra gothic dimension. This song provides perhaps the best example of Jung’s voice, and the slight wavering quality it possesses that makes it simultaneously wilder and warmer than, for example, Nico’s.
Jung has spent time as a songwriter in residence at a New York university, and while this EP occasionally betrays its Teutonic roots (as well as the odd nod to lysergic Brit-folk) it owes just as much to the American gothic tradition. But to pigeonhole it thus would be to do it a disservice: it has an eerie appeal all of its own that, rather than being explained by geography, is simply the result of a wonderful voice and some timeless songwriting.
Review by: Thomas Blake