|Gemma Ray — Psychogeology (Feb. 15th, 2019)|
Location: Berlin, Germany
Album release: Feb. 15th, 2019
Record Label: Bronze Rat Records
Duration: 42:28 + 11:08 => 53:36
01. Blossom Crawls 3:35
02. Death Tapes 3:14
03. It’s Only Loneliness 4:32
04. In Colour 4:23
05. Dreaming Is Easy 5:14
06. Psychogeology 3:24
07. Flood Plains 4:08
08. Land of Make Believe 4:18
09. Roll On River 4:11
10. Summer Comes 5:29
♠★■ Any human endeavor worth doing is enhanced and sharpened by experience, and a decade’s worth of songwriting, collaborating, touring and guitar virtuosity has culminated in Gemma Ray’s latest recording “Psychogeology”. The English born chanteuse, who is currently based in Berlin, offers up ten tunes of lush introspection, and a desire to link the human experience to the natural world via melodic and adeptly produced music that lightens the heart and opens the eyes and ears to larger possibilities. Ray’s surf~guitar style combines with her strong and highly refined voice to give the listener plenty to ponder while just enjoying the backing symphony of ravishing sounds.
■♠★ The opener, “Blossom Crawls” deals with an unpleasant experience (a panic attack in the back of a taxi) but uses superb guitar work, an uplifting drum line and a steady throbbing bass riff to mold a bouncy little tune behind the tense lyric and vocal. This one has been released as a teaser single for the album and does its job of attracting attention. Ray’s voice gives the song the intended uneasiness but does it without being off~putting. She sounds a bit like Stevie Nicks without the nasal twang, and a Fleetwood Mac influenced late 70’s mood is evidenced here.
♠★■ If there really is such a thing as “doom-surf” guitar, Ray has it down pat on “Death Tapes”. The tune is dark, with a panicked background vocal and a bass that is threatening every woofer in the studio. The difference between “Blossom Crawls” and “Death Tapes” is quite staggering, and shows the true creative range of the composer.
■♠★ Ms. Ray unleashes the drums and keyboards on “It’s Only Loneliness”. to whip up an electric piano based jazziness that sets the tune apart from others offered. The guitar work is there, but not as dominant as usual until much later in the song. Once it does appear, it anchors an impressive instrumental ending to the last third of the recording.
♠★■ Just when we were getting comfortable, “In Colour” jolts us out of our contented place with a folky acoustic vibe. The longer the song goes on, the more enhanced it gets with added backgrounds that eventually take over. Exquisite keyboards and an even stronger than usual vocal from Ray wake the song up and give it its eventual personality, which is just lovely. I found this one to be the most impressive cut on a disc devoid of weaknesses.
■♠★ “Dreaming is Easy” uses studio production to create the ethereal feel hinted at in the title. This waltz~like composition uses interesting vocal gymnastics and a psychedelic noise~out at the end to once again make sure the listener doesn’t get too comfortable or lulled into complacency.
♠★■ The album’s title track brings the lyrical focus of the entire project into focus. “In this place where landscape breathes / life into make~believe / just need to keep moving / shadows of mountains are mountains.” Ray sings while a gorgeous electric piano and skillful double tracking of the vocal personifies the heady subject of her lyric. The use of a flute a layer or two deep in the mix also adds the sprinkles to an already tasty dessert.
■♠★ If Quentin Tarantino is looking for soundtrack possibilities for his next project, it's a safe bet that “Flood Plains” will be considered. The guitar opening and woodwind addition give the song a spaghetti western mood that can’t be missed. Even the stylized vocal and musical fadeout at the end brings to mind a grimacing Eastwood and dried out cattle skulls in a desolate desert~scape.
♠★■ The guitar and vocal are once again the driving forces on “Land of Make Believe”. The song wanders between Beach Boys style surf strumming and heavier psychedelic production to bring forth one of the recording’s more interesting accomplishments. This feels like an homage to late 60’s, early 70’s style production, and it is done better than most.
■♠★ Ray uses her torch~singer style warbling on “Roll On River” to grab attention from the first note. The tune flows along nicely and then surprises at the conclusion with a “Baba O’Reilly” reminiscent keyboard freak out. I didn’t see that coming, but it works.
♠★■ “Summer Comes” acts as a lullaby for the entire album. “Before you close your eyes and go to sleep / won’t you keep me close” Ray sings over a beautiful and soothing melody that wraps up everything in a skillful and impressive manner. It reminded me of the way “Good Night” finished off The Beatle’s “White Album’. It leaves the listener satisfied, but perhaps wanting just a little bit more.
■♠★ “Psychogeology” was mainly recorded in the historic Candy Bomber Studios in Berlin, and the well~known collection of vintage recording equipment on sight couldn’t help but give the project some of its personality. It is Ray’s most ambitious project to date and clearly spotlights a talent at the top of her game.
♠★■ There are currently numerous artists attempting to link nature to the human mind using music as the preferred jumper cable. All do it just a bit differently, and most do a commendable job. I found “Psychogeology” to accomplish the desired effect while also providing resounding delights along the journey. We get a glimpse not only of worldly beauty but also the inherent skill of an artist creating a grandeur all her own. ■♠★ https://soundblab.com/
■ 2008 The Leader
■ 2010 Lights Out Zoltar!
■ 2010 It’s A Shame About Gemma Ray
■ 2012 Island Fire
■ 2013 Down Baby Down
■ 2014 Milk For Your Motors
■ 2016 The Exodus Suite
■ 2019 Psychogeology
|Gemma Ray — Psychogeology (Feb. 15th, 2019)|