As I’ve been rather obsessed with the new FWY! Any Exit tape on Moon Glyph for the past few weeks (you really should get your mitts on it), coming to the realization that Glenn Donaldson (of Jewelled Antler, among a million other great things) was the brains behind the project sent me digging around in boxes, digital and otherwise, revisiting loads of those great CDRs from the early and mid 00s, feeling overwhelmed in the best possible way (you’ll never convince me that The Blithe Sons’ Green Mansions isn’t just one of the most underappreciated albums of the 00s, but also one of the absolute best). Anyway, I had, on a handful of occasions, the opportunity to work with a couple members of that original Jewelled Antler core group on a number of different projects. Perhaps most notably, to me at least, was the one & only album under the moniker Softwar. This was a group featuring Loren Chasse, Christine Boepple, Kerry McLaughlin, & Geoff Koops. Most will probably recognize Chasse’s name as he was as integral to Jewelled Antler as Donaldson, not just with the projects they were involved in together (The Blithe Sons, Thuja, etc) but for his solo work especially (The greatness of his Of project is hard to understate).
Softwar combined elements of this bevy of projects, but really pushed off into new directions for Jewelled Antler at the time. There were hints of more traditional song structures and rhythms through the album and vocals that rose to the top of the mix. Over the course of ten tracks, the group covered a vast range of styles and ideas, weaving surprising pop factions into a cascade of found instrumentation, field recordings, and rivers of aural texture. The title track is a perfect example of this, summed up beautifully and succinctly as McLaughlin (I’m pretty sure) sings “There’s so much further to go.” It still bums me out that the second Softwar album never materialized (if it was even in the cards), but there’s a plethora of gems beyond to dig through and supplement (might I suggest starting with the Chasse & Boepple concoction, Ov, and their lovely Noctilucent Valleys on Soft Abuse). In the meantime, delight in The Softwar: