Best Left Unsaid:
An Interview with Pieces of Juno
Do we experience external values as more beautiful than they really are? Who constructs a social structure and what does it take to tear it down? What is the middle point between massive self-esteem and great self-doubt? Profet’s Chief Ideologue Filip Lindström interviews Pieces of Juno about these subjects and many more surrounding her new album »Tacenda«.
Northern Noir is an expression that I’m sure any inhabitant of a Nordic country can apply to the desolate feeling of heading through yet another never-ending, pitch black winter. Pieces of Juno, the Norwegian artist and producer, has used it as the name for her musical genre. When I listen to her songs I understand why, but not because they are as depressing and difficult to endure as a Nordic winter. No, I feel that the music that Pieces of Juno, (also known as Juno Jensen, previously Kine Sandbæk Jensen) makes can be a comfort during those times, something that walks alongside the darkness without making it darker. I wouldn’t call it a guiding light, but a companion that embraces obscurity and points out the value in it. Juno’s latest album »Tacenda« is, according to the artist herself, about »what’s hidden, what we try to cover up, what we want to forget«. The Northern Noir genre can carry bleak sentiments like that, with titles such as »Everything Disappears« and »Wash It Away«. The almost Tom Waits-jazzy »Everything Disappears« is dreamy, in a Twin Peaks dreamy way, a soundtrack for the times when you are unsure whether you are awake or asleep. At this moment, when the last leaves are holding on to the trees and the nights grow longer, I can lean back into Juno’s slithering vocals and just disappear.
»Tacenda« in its entirety continues the melancholic presence of Juno’s earlier work. Her voice is still as close to every emotion available as it was on her older songs, like the gripping »Silver & Gold«. What sets her new tracks apart from her previous releases is what surrounds her vocals. If I compare the before mentioned single »Silver & Gold« or perhaps »Tristesse« from »Ghostwriting« (2013) to the unsettling »Tuck Me In« off of »Tacenda«, I can see the evolution of Juno’s soundscape. Make sure to understand me correctly, the sound is the same, but sonically the music differs. It is stripped of the heavy bass and electronic trap sounds, leaving space for a lighter and more organic musical stepping stone for Juno’s enchanting vocal.
Juno tells me that the new album serves as a bit of a sequel to »Kalopsia«, a six-track piece that was released earlier this year. The songs on that record are beginning to shape themselves into what »Tacenda« sounds like, while still carrying some of the characteristics of Juno’s harder productions. She wrote both »Kalopsia« and »Tacenda« simultaneously, and chose to divide the thirteen songs into two separate records. The artwork on the cover of »Tacenda« is a darker, inverted version of its predecessor’s, sort of like the music itself. Juno explains that she felt that there were two different moods, two perspectives on the self. The albums are almost a Jungian psychological example of a study of the various levels of a person, as Juno describes the process as diving into the psyche. She tells me more of the dual outlook on one subject.
- I’m interested in what makes us always want something better. I see that in myself and many others around me. I’m very interested in seeing what pushes that part of you that wants more all the time.
»Kalopsia« to the left and »Tacenda« on the right
The term »kalopsia« means to »experience something as more beautiful than it really is« and can be directly connected to our desire for things that we don’t possess. For the record, it has nothing to do with the brownish Swedish meat stew kalops. Peter Gärdenfors, professor of cognitive science, has spoken of us humans as seeing ourselves as more beautiful and better than we actually are, but normally kalopsia is applied on external objects and values. In layman’s terms this is verbalized as »the grass is always greener on the other side«, where we look at something we don’t have and idealize it.
- In the end, when you have it, it isn’t necessarily what you wanted, says Juno and continues: I thought that was an interesting theme, I recognize that in myself and I think others can too.
- Does it happen that you dream of things and when you reach them, they are not what you imagined? I ask.
- Yes, basically all the time, she replies. You have an idea of what you want and it never goes according to the plan.
Juno adds that it might be difficult to see the self as it really is, with its dual nature. Self-knowledge, and the comprehension of both ends of the psyche, are the ties that bind »Kalopsia« and »Tacenda« together. It is not always simple to adjust the image of oneself to an outer perception of one as a person, one’s understanding of self seldom coincides with what actually shows. When Juno speaks about looking yourself in the mirror, I start talking about self-knowledge and catch myself in mid-thought.
- I think there are many people who tries to run away from looking themselves in the mirror. At least people close to me… or maybe I’m really talking about myself rather than people close to me. I think I build an image of myself instead of seeing who I essentially am.
- We present ourselves as two persons, says Juno and brings up something that can be seen as one side of a person: There is the virtual you, an avatar online that in some ways is you but really is not.
I think Juno might have misunderstood me, whether she did understand or not is still not clear to me since I let the moment pass without asking. What I did mean was that I sometimes am indisputably certain of who I am, what I’m doing and why. At other times, I feel like that certainty is merely a cover for another part of me. Whatever that part might be, the balancing between an extreme self-esteem and an equal self-doubt is excruciating and exhausting. I guess this feeling might be in the vicinity of what Pieces of Juno’s two albums are circling.
Where »Kalopsia« covers subjects that are socially accepted for open discussions, »Tacenda« represents the back side of the psyche. The title refers to things that are best left unsaid. Who decides what’s best is not a specific person, rather the collective human thought that we as a species have produced by gradually inventing a normative behavior.
Pieces of Juno
Juno Jensen is one of the founders and caretakers of creative collective (there’s a term that has sky rocketed in popularity lately) KOSO, which started up as a web magazine, not entirely unlike Profet. Today, KOSO is also a record label and club night in Oslo, supporting female performers of many art forms. Speaking of normative behavior (and escaping it), KOSO are working towards creating a more even balance in the music industry.
- We don’t want to be excluding in any way, but it is necessary to show that a work of art can be completely run by a woman. It’s very important to have a space where you can feel safe to create. We have very few female producers, we need more female producers and to get more female producers we need to be visible.
Juno talks of creating groups like KOSO, where women can learn from each other and inspire each other. She points out that men have been doing this for centuries, writing about each other and supporting each other.
- It’s important that women do that too. It really should be regardless of gender, I don’t want to be defined only as a woman. I am primarily a creator, that’s what brings me joy, to make things. I don’t want to primarily be a girl who makes things.
The unbalance between male and female artists really has the same foundation as the reason for some topics being acceptable to talk about while others are not. In everyday speech, you would say that these things are the way they are because that’s the way they’ve always been. Think twice about social structures that have changed during the past centuries, and the everyday logic written above immediately loses its reason and rhyme. The human race is as split in its values as the psyche is within one person. On one hand, we hold on to what’s old and established for dear life, terrified of changing the rotation of the earth. On the other hand, we strive to always renew ourselves, and we see youth as an attractive trait. All social constructions that shape and trap the world are either dissolving rapidly or tightening their grip with all their might. Every generation has the opportunity to reshape the world and its arrangements into a more suitable state. Unwritten rules about social conduct can be rightfully erased and people can loosen their hold of days of old. The question is if we can ever get rid of the tacenda, things that are best left unsaid, or if it is a basic human instinct to hide what hurts the most.24 Oktober 2017