Jen Cloher

"I Am The River, The River Is Me" - ALBUM

Record Label
Marathon Music Group
release date
March 3, 2023
Jen Cloher
Auf ihrem ersten Album seit fünf Jahren atmet Cloher endlich aus. I Am The River, The River Is Me, ihr fünftes Album, ist üppig und reichhaltig; es schwelgt in der Stille und trägt sich selbst mit kühlem, schnörkellosem Vertrauen. Es suggeriert, dass Heimat nicht an einem Ort oder in einer Politik zu finden ist, sondern in der Gemeinschaft, die man pflegt: Inspiriert von Clohers mächtiger matrilinearer Linie der wāhine Māori, ist I Am The River, The River Is Me nicht dringlich oder übereilt, sondern vital, gemacht mit der Sorgfalt und Leichtigkeit von jemandem, der weiß, dass seine Vergangenheit schon vor seiner Geburt begann und noch lange nach seinem Tod weitergehen wird.
It can take a lifetime to find a home. Across four stark and brilliant records Jen Cloher (Ngāpuhi & Ngāti Kahu) has been searching for hers. But belonging is a fickle, elusive thing for anyone and the search for it can be a persistent, nagging motivator. Cloher’s taut, terse brand of rock is charged with the static tension that comes with being an eternal misfit; they have spoken truth to power with the shrewd eye that only an outsider can possess. Admirers have naturally gravitated towards Cloher’s incisive, generous songwriting. Over the course of her career, she has won a J Award and an AIR Award, and been nominated for the Australian Music Prize and the ARIA for Best Female Artist, among others. On her first album in five years, Cloher finally breathes out. I Am The River, The River Is Me, her fifth album, is verdant and rich; it luxuriates in stillness, and carries itself with cool, unfussy confidence. It suggests that home is not found in a place or a politic, but in the community you keep: Inspired by Cloher’s powerful matrilineal line of wāhine Māori, I Am The River, The River Is Me is not urgent, or hurried, but it is vital, made with the care and ease of someone who knows that their past began before birth, and will continue long after they’re gone. I Am The River, The River Is Me is an album of remarkable generosity and grace. Recorded between Aotearoa (NZ) and Naarm (Melbourne) with producers Tom Healy (Tiny Ruins, Marlon Williams), Anika Ostendorf (Hachiku) and Cloher’s longtime drummer Jen Sholakis; the album brings in trailblazing artists including Emma Donovan (Gumbaynggirr, Yamatji), Kylie Auldist, Liz Stringer, Te Kaahu (Waikato-Tainui/Ngāti Tīpā), Ruby Solly (Kai Tahu, Waitaha, Kāti Māmoe) and members of the Naarm-based Kapa Haka, Te Hononga o ngā Iwi. The entire record feels communal — a celebration not just of Cloher, but of the rich, life-filled communities that surround them. These are fiercely political songs that never feel heavy: They are energetic and full-blooded, alive with the knowledge that to simply exist — to scream and laugh and sing and make art — is as much a form of resistance as to fight. On the title track and centrepiece of I Am The River, The River Is Me, Cloher sings a reminder to herself: “You’re only here because of everything your people survived.” The tenacity of those words permeates the rest of the album. You can feel it in the strength and sly wit of breezy, pop opener “Mana Takatāpui”, a celebration of the Māori LGBTQ+ community. And that tenacity provides a titanium backbone to “Being Human”, which chronicles Cloher’s upbringing away from her own land and people, “I am Māori, Pākēha/In so-called Australia”. Gone however, is the wistful nostalgia of songs like “Regional Echo” from Cloher’s 2017 self-titled release, “Being Human” ends with an impassioned call to fellow settlers, “Sovereignty never ceded/Land Back/Or we gotta go.” On “He Toka-Tū-Moana”, a waiata sung with Te Kaahu, the idea of legacy comes full circle: Cloher sings “Ka ārahina e tōu ipukarea,” or “Your ancestral home will lead you,” and it might be the most purely beautiful moment in Cloher’s entire catalogue, their voice intertwining with Te Kaahu’s like shades of a sunset bleeding together. Finding yourself, finding your home, is an unruly, never-ending process; I Am The River, The River Is Me is not a perfect self-portrait, and it possesses no universal truth about what it means to be Māori, or to be wahine toa (a strong woman), or to be takatāpui, or even to be Jen Cloher. Instead, it captures something else — a picture of humanity and community as a gorgeous, unfathomable mess. The joy of life, Cloher seems to say, is in forgiving your moments of weakness with grace, and embracing the parts of you that are unfinished. On “Aroha Mai, Aroha Atu”, they put it simply, and perfectly: “I may have come late, but better late than never.”