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By today’s standard, Wray’s self-titled debut album, which contains just seven songs, is really more of a long EP. But as they say, it’s all about quality, not quantity. And there’s quality in these energetic, often ecstatic grooves all right. That said, it’s actually quite astonishing, not to say downright impressive, how many creative sounds, effects, and compositional twists and turns this driven three-piece manage to squeeze into their songs despite the album’s short playing time of less than 27 minutes. Wray is testament to the fact that sometimes you can indeed have it both ways: slight quantity and quality in abundance.
Wray hail from Birmingham, Alabama, and they are: David Brown on lead vocal/bass, Blake Wimberly on Drums, and David Swatzell on guitars/vocals. Their musical style is referred to as “Powergaze”; quite an apt description considering the band’s mergence of related genres such as Shoegaze, Power Pop, Punk, Garage Rock, and Krautrock. Equal parts hypnotic, trance-like repetition and rapturous, adventurous exploration, Wray’s songs are bursting with raw energy and contagious enthusiasm. One moment the electric guitars shimmer and chime, the next they erupt with a fierce, unbridled vengeance, drenched in fuzz, reverb, and distortion, to the sound of relentlessly chugging rhythms and motoric beats (e.g. the tour de force that is the majestic 7-minute long centrepiece, May 15). Initially, the songs may sound straightforward and simple, but repeated listens through headphones reveal the complexity of the music.
Wray’s opening track, Blood Moon, slowly fades in on a wave of gradually increasing guitar noise, and then suddenly kicks into full gear before abruptly and unexpectedly segueing straight into the next track, Apacheria, the first single released from the album. It’s a nice little touch and an auspicious start -- and from here onwards the songs just get even better. While Wray’s obvious influences are acclaimed early 1990s Shoegaze bands Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine, they also possess -– or perhaps they’re possessed with -– an admirable devil-may-care Garage Rock attitude that infuses songs such as Swells, with its swirling, dizzying guitar patterns and rapid-fire delivery, and the hard-hitting one-two-punch closing numbers, Bad Heart and Relative. But it’s not all testosterone-rich alpha male swagger. Floating on a bouncy, rolling rhythm, there’s a lightness of touch and an air of pensiveness to Graved, an elegant little sparkling gem of a song that’s reminiscent of Swervedriver’s soft side (another ‘90s Shoegaze band). Wray’s spectacular debut has been issued through the record label Communicating Vessels started by none other than songwriter/producer extraordinaire Jeffrey Cain of Isidore (and formerly of Remy Zero).