wears the trousers magazine


sounding off: april/may 2009 (IV)

Part IV – reviews of Ray Rumours, Valet and Abigail Washburn & The Shanghai Restoration Project.

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Ray Rumours
Le Pont Suspendu •••
Stitch-Stitch

Ray Rumours is essentially the solo project of Electrelane bassist Ros Murray, but she is often accompanied by Gill Partington and other friends sometimes join the singalong. Le Pont Suspendu may be a retelling of events and memories from the winter of 2007 and spring of 2008 but there’s not even a tiny whiff of self-indulgence about it. The themes are abstract, the music light and uplifting, and the album drifts along, not asking too much of its listeners. Even songs called ‘Snowman’ and ‘Winter Coat’ have the sun shining out of them.

Despite this surface ease, the stories being told can become engaging: the reminiscing about youth on ‘Berlin To Poznan’; using late-night travel as a metaphor for emotional stability on the charming ‘Nightbus’. Le Pont Suspendu doesn’t break any new ground, nor does it aim to. It can provide the perfect background to a leisurely daytime pursuit but, with music as stirring at ‘The Turtle’ or as joyful as ‘Meaningless Words’, it’s happy to give a little bit more when required.

Daniel Clatworthy
UK release date: 30/03/09; www.myspace.com/rayrumours

 

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Valet
False Face Society ••••
Mexican Summer

Valet is Honey Owens, a wonderfully creative Portland native who has made a name for herself by releasing two somewhat daunting albums, Blood Is Clean and Naked Acid, and touring with the likes of Deerhunter and Jackie O’ Motherfucker. Released as a limited edition 12″ vinyl on the boutique label Mexican Summer, third album False Face Society is an item of rare beauty inspired by tribal themes, specifically by the titular Native American group best known for its dramatic wooden masks (“false faces”) which are used in healing rituals to invoke a dreamworld full of spirits. 

Owens has taken this idea and channeled the traditional rituals into a musical output that is both hypnotic and disturbing. Dark undertones, drawn-out guitars, strings and electronic noise create layer upon layer of sound, until you are left with a sentiment rather than a song. The album’s three tracks exceed the 25-minute mark altogether, a large chunk of which is taken up by longest piece ‘Angels Can’t Stop’, which spans the whole of side one, throbbing and racing with distant chanting. Of the other two songs, ‘Dealer vs. Ocean’ is mournful and haunted while ‘Rainbow’ sets a different tone, with a steadier rhythm framing timidly enchanting vocals. An inspiring psychedelic release.

Anja McCloskey
Available on import only; www.myspace.com/honeyowens


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Abigail Washburn & The Shanghai Restoration Project
Afterquake EP ••••
Afterquake Music

To anyone who has read our recent interview with Nashville-based folk songstress Abigail Washburn, it might not come as a surprise that the artist has released an EP to raise awareness and financial support for survivors of last year’s Sichuan Province earthquake. Washburn has a long-held fascination with China, and the Sichuan Province especially, having studied in and toured the country extensively. What will come as a surprise, though, is the nature of this release. Collaborating with New York-based Dave Liang’s Shanghai Restoration Project, a fascinating collective that combine the sounds of 1930s Shanghai jazz with electronica and hip-hop, Afterquake uses actual recordings of the rebuilding of the area and vocal takes of relocated school children to produce a quirky electronic sound.

While the first anniversary of the devastating earthquake reminds us of the sheer horror and immensity of the event, the EP instills a positivity in the listener that is inspiring and heartbreaking. The children featured on the recording display such moving belief and optimistic spirit, despite what they have already had to encounter in their short lives; ‘Song For Mama’, a Tibetan traditional number sung by a 14 year old boy, is especially touching.

Anja McCloskey
UK release date: 12/05/09; www.myspace.com/abigailwashburn


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