The seventh album from Basildon’s Gemma Ray appears as a torch-bearing Psychedelic sonic play, and looks to add another interpretation of life within the already much subscribed and revived genre.
The dreamy tremolo organ on ‘Come Caldera’ leads into, and accompanies, Gemma‘s strong melody, which reaches out with heartfelt cries, holding a sweet harmony.
The almost The Coral play Cumbian vibes on ‘There Must Be More Than This’, which has a haunting arrangement, serves up lashings of rhodes bassline vibraphone flurries, farsifa organ, tremolo-echoed guitars, with Gemma‘s jazzy inflections bringing to mind Norah Jones. That is of course, had she taken the Psychedelic route, she may have sounded similar and this is further seen on ‘Ifs & Buts.’ A Phil Spectre wall of sound presentation on ‘The Original One,’ with drifting lines from guitars and organ, are followed by an even-paced tom-tom rhythm, including mellotron strings – think of Fleetwood Mac‘s ‘Albatross‘ as a close sound reference.
A folky acoustic guitar swing on ‘We are all Wandering’ wraps you in a oceanic ghostly realm dreamscape, as the song truly suggests you feel free to wander. The orchestral drum sounds give and sense of adventure, which is given further credence on ‘Acta Non Verba’.
Some light trip-hop on ‘Hail Animal’ brings what could be Portishead all these years later, with Gemma’s soul searching vulnerable vocals. The backdrop seems to convey cosmic than organic tones, it is as though she is reaching out to interstellar deities, bidding them to return from their celestial abode. Plenty of echo and an intense dense spacey backdrop.
The distant peaceful lullaby vibrations on ‘The Switch’ have you imagine a twilight flight journey into the golden sun, echos of guitar arpeggios, whistles, and a gentle bass line keeps the whole track adrift. The harmonies present by Gemma do carry a sedative whimsical quality.
The female choral cooing brings in a truly active melancholic ballad, shows ‘ The Machine’ as a song that takes no prisoners when it comes to show the value of a human being. Gemma sings of her predicament: “I fell inside of the machine/it stuck out like another/felt such a fool for dreaming/oh brother am I more than a number..” The whole song has a slight reggae roots/dub undertone which works well, and may beg for more of her material to be covered in this style; let’s hope it happens sooner than later.
The wavering ethereal beauty prevailing on ‘Shimmering may have easily been a John Barry inspired seafaring-esque composition; slow jazzy swinging drums, sauntering distant strings, multiple guitar echoes and Gemma‘s sea siren wailing would leave many marooned on a island. The hypnotic organ bluesy bass line and drum shuffle, short guitar flurries, and zipping organ lines carry ‘Caldera Caldera!’ over with an intense concern for a certain acquintance’s behaviour, comparable to a volcanic activity.
‘The Exodus Suite’ demonstrates a strong songwriting presence, with a stage musical presentation, possible apt for a stage show. There seems to be further stories to be told by Gemma Ray, and it is through endearing works such as these that make the wait for the next offering all the more worthwhile.
‘The Exodus Suite’ is out now via Bronzerat.
This Gemma Ray review was written by Mark Steele, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Natalie Whitehouse.