Jessamine are one of the greatest bands ever out of Seattle. Dont you know that yet?
  • Kranky Records
  • Jessamine are one of the greatest bands ever out of Seattle. Don't you know that yet?

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Nineties Seattle space rockers Jessamine’s self-titled album turned 20 in November, but few people noticed or cared. So let’s take this opportunity to recognize Jessamine as one of the esteemed Kranky label’s pinnacles and one of the greatest records to come out of this city.

In 1994, Jessamine—Rex Ritter, Dawn Smithson, Andy Brown, and Michael Faeth—were creating a dreamy, exploratory strain of rock that found fascinating ways to reinterpret the tropes established by totemic experimenters Pink Floyd, Can, and Miles Davis' groups from 1970-1975. “Don’t You Know That Yet?” is Jessamine’s longest and most enigmatic journey into inner space, an apotheosis of their insular psychedelic tendencies. It doesn’t rock as hard and wobbly as “Ordinary Sleep” or bliss out as sexily as “Cellophane,” but “Don’t You Know That Yet?” represents the band at their kosmische peak. Now somebody please arrange a vinyl reissue (preferably on two slabs of wax)...

I asked bassist/vocalist Smithson for her observations about Jessamine. Here's her response, after her first listen to the album in several years.

"Listening back brings a lot of memories and, now that I have a 20-year perspective, I can hear our combined influences and the originality that resulted. I don't know if I have anything poignant to say about the album, but I can say that we had a sound that wasn't quite like anyone else. That made it difficult to develop a fan base in a small city, difficult to find the people we resonated with. We were part of a group of musical misfits in Seattle until we put out our second single. Thanks to Rex [Ritter]'s determination and networking and thanks to a generous loan from his mom, we caught the attention of [Kranky Records' owners] Bruce [Adams] and Joel [Leoschke] and we were finally able to reach a national, and later somewhat global audience and find our fellow space-rockers. No small feat back then! These days, recording your own work and putting it out into the world is a relatively simple thing.

"We continued to evolve after the debut and gained and lost more fans along the way. It's difficult to continually evolve as a band (or a brand, etc.) because people don't like change, but I'm glad we stayed true to ourselves and didn't create a formula in order to build popularity. The only thing I would change after all these years is make the vocals at least as loud as the instruments. Ha."

You can hear a more recent recording featuring Smithson's singing and playing with the group Winter's Day here.