Few records this year will deconstruct the album as an artistic medium in the same way The Ritual Of Love Making does. It’s especially worth noting that this is a debut. Forgoing the usual “here’s a load of songs we’ve written up this point” approach, Vernon Jane submerges us in the stages of the titular ritual, broken-up here into four defined stages – Cleanse, Sink, Drown, and Float, and by doing so create something that feels less like an “album” and more like the build-up, process and eventual aftermath of a primal scream. Catharsis through the act of making sound and being heard. Even if it’s only yourself who hears it.
Like a deep breath before the plunge, ‘Cleanse’ opens The Ritual Of Love Making with a stream of consciousness both musically and lyrically, as the band flow beneath Emily Jane’s words as they begin to take focus and find order. Followed by a brief moment of silence before the plunge itself, the all-encompassing and frantic ‘Daddy Issues’. Contrasting the haze of ‘Cleanse’, ‘Daddy Issues’ is precise and pointed. From the sharp-edged guitars, rumbling bassline and manic beat, the track begins a thread of intensity. This is seen most strikingly in ‘Sink’, a song that exudes an unrestrained vocal ferocity, central to the record’s success, as the lyric “I’m a bitch and you’re a cunt” is roared and repeated with no quarter given. Indeed, the rawness of the songwriting shown in ‘Sink’ plays perfectly into the four aforementioned ritualistic themes and becomes a recurring highpoint of the record itself.
The Ritual Of Love Making is an album of great contrast. No sooner are we in a whirlwind of sonic fervour then we are in the melodically and rhythmically rich soundscape of ‘Drugs You Do’, the slow brooding build of ‘Otherside’ and atmospherically warping tension of ‘Drown’. This arc of change at the core of The Ritual Of Love Making is a testament to Vernon Jane as a band, as they move stylistically through a myriad of sound whilst still threading them all together as one cohesive work. Indeed, the ability to dynamically capture what is happening lyrically in the album is essential to the record as a whole.
‘Fuck Her’ (found in the final act – Float) delivers the high-water mark of The Ritual Of Love Making. As all points converge in a song that has a vivid musicality too, as brass stabs, swirling guitar lines and pounding drum beats meld into a turbulent undercurrent for Emily Jane’s powerhouse vocal to take centre stage as the line “I know you’re thinking of me when you fuck her, I know it makes you a little bit harder” is spat out with all the intensity of the previous ten songs behind it. Again, the bare-boned lyrical thread emerges as both the words and the music mirror one another thematically, making the impact all the more enthralling.
And so it goes, The Ritual Of Love Making doesn’t leave us the way it found us. At the beginning of this review, I likened the album to the process of a primal scream, that both Vernon Jane and the listener seek and find healing through sound. Throughout four stages and twelve songs, the ritual itself is one of great catharsis. This is not a journey but shared experience, an insight that takes us through the deep-breath, yells and aftermath and finds us on the other side all the better for having gone through it. All the while, Vernon Jane breaks the mould in more ways than one.