Record Review: Jane Siberry – No Borders Here

Open Air | US | CD | 1984 | 0D-0302

Open Air | US | CD | 1984 | 0D-0302

Jane Siberry: No Borders Here US CD [1984]

  1. The Waitress
  2. I Muse Aloud
  3. Dancing Class
  4. Extra Executives
  5. You Don’t Need
  6. Symmetry (The Ways Things Have To Be)
  7. Follow Me
  8. Mimi On The Beach
  9. Map Of The World (Part 1)

I can’t remember if I was eating breakfast before college, or if I was reviewing one of my dead-of-night MTV tapes, but it was some time in the Spring of 1984 [I think] that I was exposed to the work of Jane Siberry for the first time. I remember that it was in the hours of dawn when I saw the clip of “Mimi On The Beach” on MTV and thought that I needed to check out this Jane Siberry. “Mimi On The Beach” was a minimal, deceptively pretty pop song built on a one note synth loop rhythm that brought to mind the vocal loop that similarly grounded Laurie Anderson’s “O Superman.” The song was further distinguished by its radiantly expansive chorus that featured an achingly beautiful chord sequence that unfolded like an origami lotus.

I made certain to buy the “No Borders Here” album as soon as I found a copy for sale; on vinyl at first since the CD was at least a year into the future for me. I was surprised to see that the album was released in America on the Windham Hill subsidiary label Open Air Records. I always associated Windham Hill with American ambient music chasing after Brian Eno and Harold Budd’s earlier efforts. This was much closer to pop music that I would associate with WH, but that’s not to say that it was in any way facile.

This is the original Canadian LP cover to the album…

This is the original Canadian LP cover to the album…

The album began with the deceptively poppy song “Waitress” which outlined with great amusement Ms. Siberry’s undoubtedly real waitressing qualities that maybe kept her distracted from chasing music fame, though her debut album [1981’s “Jane Siberry”] was apparently funded by her tips she made working at the coffeehouse where she began her path. The backing music was sprightly and jazz inflected with lots of complex eddies and currents of sound that effortlessly kept the brief 2:25 song moving forward as if it were a simple pop song.

“I Muse Aloud” was another single from the album [at least in her native Canada] that featured all of the complexity her band had on offer with spare, Andy Summers guitar lines from Jane and Ken Myhr offering suggestive melodies to counterpoint the complex rhythm programming and percussion that propelled the song forward. The wonderful lyrics offer thoughts on how her loved filled her boyfriend with so much love… that he fell in love with every girl he chanced upon. It’s such a witty and vivacious number and the level of irony inherent in the song is fully dependent on the amount of cynicism each listener brought to it. Meaning; your mileage may vary – either the singer is hopelessly naive or the sentiments can be taken at face value. The result is brilliant pop that makes the listener part of the artistic process

The album version of “Mimi On The Beach” was a revelation. The 3:30 single was obviously [well] edited from the sprawling if non-bombastic 7:35 album track. The beguiling 7″ mix was just the tip of the iceberg as Ms. Siberry crafted an epic construction equal to many a prog opus in scope, if not in execution. The touch here, as throughout the album was light and buoyant, even as the lyrical observations and arrangements revealed as many depths as a peeled onion. In this respect, her songs were perhaps inspired by two obvious touchstones in Joni Mitchell [particularly considering her folk singing background as on the dramatically simpler 1981 debut] and with the aforementioned Laurie Anderson, who shared Ms. Siberry’s penchant for complex, sonic collage that avoided the pitfall of bombast.

I went from this album to follow Ms. Siberry for at least six years before I lost the plot in the early 90s. The last album of Jane Siberry that I have was 1989’s return to direct simplicity “Bound By The Beauty” after three albums of increasingly complex music that seemingly reached a crisis point with the overreach of 1988’s “The Walking.” That album’s title song is my favorite Jane Siberry song, but much of it sounds like its collapsing under its own weight; an accusation that cannot be leveled against the adroit flight of fancy that was “No Borders Here.”

– 30 –

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16 Responses to Record Review: Jane Siberry – No Borders Here

  1. Simon H says:

    My first encounter with Jane was The Walking, that album for me is a classic, but I too eventually lost patience. I wonder whether she’s an example of an artist where I prefer their work when it fails short of the point where they have complete artistic freedom! I saw her live in a very small venue here in the UK a few years back, it was a very odd gig, I kind of enjoyed it sporadically but some of the audience were clearly totally nonplussed! Rather as I feel re David Sylvian’s current work, I respect her for going her own way, but it’s not really for me.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Simon H – Good point about the sometimes pitfall of complete artistic freedom and Mr. Sylvian. When I look at Ms. Siberry’s recent output, it seems a tad off putting. I should sample it and see what I think. I didn’t stop listening to Siberry due to artistic overreach. It came down to the span of time between “Bound By The Beauty” and whatever came next. I know it took years, and my priorities changed quite a bit in that period. When I don’t buy an artist’s albums for five years, it’s easy to extend that period indefinitely.


  2. Nick says:

    sorry this is not related [again] Monk – where is your ‘contact me’ option !! Have you read/seen anything about this ?


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Nick – I keep forgetting to add a contact form to the sidebar! Yes, I was aware of this from Or was it At any rate, it sounds cool, especially with Glenn Gregory singing, but that’s not exactly my favorite Bowie album. I can cope with not bring there. In other news, have you heard Billie Ray Martin’s cover of “After All?” It’s spectacular!


      • Nick says:

        i got email from her website about this release but didn’t get round to watching the video – now i have, all i now doing is trying to recognise the streets she’s walking around in !!! I’m not a huge Bowie fan so the song isn’t one i know – it starts a little weird but i am really liking all the percussive noise right in the middle of it !!yes…..i really like this now…thanks for the heads up


  3. Simon H says:

    For later SIberry Try When I Was a Boy, Eno was involved I think…lots of strong songs


  4. Tim says:

    I agree with a lot of folks here, I gave up on Jane after the live cd’s that she was selling on her site. I bought all of those and really enjoyed them and then the commercially released stuff just lost it for me. I’m in a small camp of fans it seems who like the Maria album. The comparison a couple of comments above with David Sylvian is spot on.

    Anyhow, if you’re going to go on a Jane Siberry tear I am quite thrilled for upcoming posts and related comments. I don’t know much of her bio, just her music. The first handfull of albums and that’s it. She comes to where I live (Madison, Wi) occasionally,I think the last time was in conjection with a literary event that we’re having each year in the fall. I have the luck to miss her every time she is here, doesn’t bother me much as it’s not like missing a performance of hers say circa “When I Was A Boy.”


  5. I have a soft spot for Siberry as there is clearly a lot of genius but also a lot of artistic instability. I think I first really noticed her for the comedic “Everything Reminds Me of My Dog,” but I own most of her early albums and when a selection comes up on the ol’ iPhone jukebox I’m always reminded that she genuinely has a lot of talent and vision (and yes, naivety). She’s presently working on a new record and has continued her friendship with KD Lang (which resulted in the stunning “Calling All Angels”) so I have great hopes that she’ll continue as a free spirit with the occasional daub of minor success that keeps her going but not so much that she has to rein in her occasional artistic excess. Performers who misstep from time to time are often the most interesting …


  6. Nick says:

    another non-related thread-raid ! Sure you might have an inkling of this one already but i’ll give it a shot :


  7. Nick says:

    sorry another thread-raid…..! Mr Midge is at it again…………..


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