Jessica Moss 
Galaxy Heart 

The cover of Jessica Moss's album, Galaxy Heart. It appears to be a photo of a frozen riverbed, but the image is turned upside down.
Constellation Records • 2022

Galaxy Heart is an album untethered by earthly constraints to explore what it feels like to let oneself loose in a celestial sea of possibilities.

Nothing is more intimidating to me as an album reviewer than a Constellation Records press release. The storied and steadfast Montreal-based label has produced some of the most fascinating and fractured music for many years, always presenting them with a deeply introspective, almost-academic analysis that often renders my meagre attempts at a review pedestrian. But that’s solidly on me, not them. As impenetrable and abstract as the Constellation canon can seem, often — as is the case with composer Jessica Moss’s Galaxy Heart — the music and performances are deeply emotional, highly compelling, and more resonant than they first seem. 

Like many faced with pandemic isolation and the inability to perform and connect with audiences, Moss says that once the reality of the situation set in, she “wanted to be a conduit for grand ideas without needing to imagine how they ‘fit’ within [her] own (self-constructed) artistic constraints.” She describes these obstacles as guideposts and limits, “blocking some unexplored paths towards unhindered expression.” So while alone in her jam space, Moss set about unblocking and unburdening herself of these limitations. The result was an impressive (and daunting, as she describes to Vish Khanna in a recent interview) collection of music that superseded the constraints of a single vinyl album. 

If you were to think of them as siblings, 2021’s Phosphenes is the refined, more rule-bound elder to Galaxy Heart’s rambunctious and free-spirited second child. Where the former is an immaculate example of Moss’s post-classical compositional work, the latter expands her scope of sounds and textures beyond her violin and introduces elements that previously may have only been part of the music’s development but never the finished product. The most obvious is Moss’s electric guitar, jolting and jarring on “This Continuous Spectrum” and yet feeling natural and organic within the composition. Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s Thierry Amar and drummer Jim White offer some remotely recorded grounding on “Uncanny Being (Violin Study #2)” and “Is There Room For All Of It.” Still, as its name implies, Galaxy Heart is an album untethered by earthly constraints. Its energy and emotional weight push against Moss’s self-imposed compositional limitations and explores what it feels like to let oneself loose in a celestial sea of possibilities. 

That meant tapping into the most primal and personal instrument in Moss’s arsenal — her voice. Her singing on “Is There Room For All Of It” and the album’s title track provide Galaxy Heart with its most human and raw moments. Galaxy Heart feels transformative for both Moss as an artist and the listener in many ways. We are voyeurs in a sense, watching and listening with bated breath as Moss breaks through barriers she never realized were there all along. Galaxy Heart is a stunning and thoroughly satisfying transformative experience.

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