14 February 2019 (released)
Berlin via Essex’s Gemma Ray bewitches and beguiles on the ‘back-to-nature-calling’ ‘Psychogeology’ (‘the place where landscapes breathe’). In Ray’s words this work (her eighth album) is ‘an ode to the majesty of landscape, the enormity of nature and time, and the inevitability of every human life eventually forming a minuscule part of further landscapes’.
This out-look has been honed from extensive global travelling and where ‘psychogeography’ is the seeking of a wandering un/subconscious resonance garnered from ‘urban’ areas, Ray goes ‘rural’, discovering a broader, wider, more expressive and expansive feeling of nature’s rhythms and tangents more attuned to the body’s inner torrents: the art of wandering in tandem with the art of wondering.
Opener ‘Blossom Crawls’ typifies this regenerating process, a 1970s AOR 10CC sheen pervades as Ray sees the titular plant withdraw ‘back into its buds’ as a means of self-preserving retreat, a return to yesterday, anyday, someday, a time of perceived sanctuary with the ability to meet and nip forthcoming problems before they emerge.
The ghosts of Link Wray and Dick Dale ‘surf’ throughout ‘Death Tapes’ and ‘Roll on River’: spectral and spooky sermons to the soil’s properties in nourishment and new life and the land-water’s cleansing minerals, the river as metaphor for life’s running time and crushing ruminations: ‘For too many years I sank deep into your bed …but now I will not be so easily led’, a scathing wave goodbye.
‘It’s only loneliness’ and ‘Flood Plains’ both have a Pink Floyd circa 1973 – 1977 ambience, creating the sound of the transience of permanence and vice versa. The latter captures the metronomic tempo of Roger Waters’s bass that evokes that band’s ‘1977 ‘Animals’ album, itself a melancholic purview of the personally political and the politically personal.
‘Dreaming is easy’ suggests Ray, a cri de cœur to the benefits of blissful bedtime as she exhorts ‘take me through the pathway of infinity’ where time is non-existent, now is the only NOW, everything is forever, climb aboard this soul-affirming flight on the astral plane. This placid trip is synth-etically backed by futuristic Shirelles/Shangri-Las harmonics with a Beatles-esque fade out. ‘Summer’s Coming’ assures Ray on a closer that ends a perfect ten that demands a fist-clenching five.
The ever-busy Ray is also renowned for her nifty fret-work with such luminaries as art-glam duo Sparks, Suicide’s late electro-pioneer Alan Vega and scatological shock-trooper Peaches as part of the Can Projekt.
Unlike woozy banshee Florence’s frightening wail or Adele and her one-track three–times a lady man-moaning, Ray, like contemporaries Georgia Ruth and Nadine Shah plays down the histrionics and tempers the performance, effortlessly articulating her art, lyrically unravelling her heart and detailing her (and ours) significant part in Mother Earth’s elements.