Although Portland’s Johanna Warren has lent her dynamic voice to acts like Iron & Wine and Natalie Merchant, she is first and foremost a songwriter of the highest order. Utilizing non-traditional open tunings reminiscent of Joni Mitchell and Nick Drake, and an impressive sense of rhythmic adventure, Warren constructs complex, gossamer folk compositions that draw from the richness of the human experience and her own unique flavor of mysticism. When asked her what motivates her to make music in the first place, she responds immediately: “Music is controlled vibration; it’s a direct way to affect matter. A song is a way to journey into places of discord and then resolve back into harmony.” In 2016, she founded Spirit House Records, a radically artist-friendly label for witches, healers and free spirits.
Last year, Warren also released Gemini I, the first of a pair of conceptually connected albums written and recorded in the throes of a rocky romantic relationship with another artist. “All the songs on both records are about a complicated three-year relationship with a Gemini man,” she says. “It was very much a ‘twin flame’ situation. We were working with bright light and intense shadow.” As a way to process this chaotic chapter of her life, Warren began to write in earnest as a form of self-therapy. Eschewing the more abstract lyricism of her earlier work, she began to create a suite of confessional songs about love and pain.
The albums that resulted, Gemini I and Gemini II, are moody, bewitching records packed with layers of occult symbolism and personal mythology. Every song on Gemini I has a corresponding “twin” on II, linked by melodic motifs, lyrical content or production choices. Rather than the DIY recording setups that Warren and engineer/producer Bella Blasko had used previously, the Geminis were tracked at Dreamland Studios in upstate New York. There, equipped with a sudden wealth of instruments and more sophisticated technology, Warren who arranges and play nearly everything on her records, felt free to explore. This spirit of experimentation is evident on the records. The songs retain the hushed warmth of previous releases Fates and numun, while expanding Warren’s sonic landscape in all directions.For tour dates and more visit: www.johannawarren.com/