Gemma Ray’s latest opus The Exodus Suite is a dramatic 52-minute odyssey through her unique style of epic torch song psychedelia. Recorded live in seven days at Berlin’s infamous Candy Bomber Studios (situated in the former Tempelhof Airport) by Ingo Krauss, the album’s title reflects the personal-political themes of the songs within. The Exodus Suite will be released in the U.S. on June 10th, 2016 via Bronzerat Records, and a first taste of the album – the soulful “There Must Be More Than This” (featuring guest pianist Carwyn Ellis) – is available to stream and download now via www.gemmaray.tv (embed code for the widget is below).
The Exodus Suite is set in two parts, starting with a hymn-like paean to nature’s forces, “Come Caldera.” The next track “The Original One” is a soft lament about modernity, followed by “We Do War,” which is a chilling lullaby that shifts into a brutal siren song before Part 1 is rounded out by “Ifs & Buts,” a Latin-tinged, surf-esque wig-out. Part 2’s opener “We Are All Wandering” has a Beach-Boys-meets-The-Wicker-Man-sound that segues into improvised soundscape neo-spiritual “Acta Non Verba.” “Hail Animal” – set against a backdrop of brooding psychedelic tension, is an ode to the nature’s vastness and our place within it. “The Switch,” with its intimate guitar and voice, transitions into “The Machine,” an explicit call for human connection against the threat of technological distraction set to a synth groove. Finally, the esoteric, skulking “Shimmering” completes the album.
An unexpected yet inescapable influence on The Exodus Suite sessions was the presence of 8,000 Syrian refugees housed in the hangar beneath the studio during recording. While Ray’s lyrical explorations of love for all life, exile and relocation, nature’s sovereignty, technology, class, and most of all the need for human empathy were all written prior to entering the studio, she explains, “I realized, more after the fact, that it gave an immediate mirror to some of the lyrics which are, though not political in any direct sense, influenced by these strange and tense times.”
Ray recorded all her lead vocals live with the band, with only backing vocals, organs, and extra flourishes added in after. Aiming to capture a natural sound that revels in any so-called human “flaws,” the album’s monumentally ornate sound was sculpted and rose out of basic simplicity, with microphone spill being an integral part of the production approach.
The Exodus Suite is performed by Ray on vocals, guitars, Mellotron, and organ, accompanied by Andrew Zammit on drums, percussion, organ, synth, and additional guitar; Fredrik Kinbom on bass and lap steel guitar; and featuring Carwyn Ellis on piano and Wurlitzer (on the tracks “There Must Be More Than This” and “Caldera, Caldera!”).
Some album formats include a bonus track, “Caldera, Caldera!”, that is a playful and up-tempo companion piece to “Come Caldera.” The vinyl version of The Exodus Suite offers these two songs on a bonus 7”, The Calderas.
Ray’s last album, Milk For Your Motors, was released in August 2014 and received praise from All Music Guide, American Songwriter (“a singular talent”), Culture Collide, MOJO, Mother Jones (“…a mesmerizing presence, mixing brainy cool and genuine passion with precise skill”), and Variety (“…her twangy guitar and dreamy vocals make her a breed apart”), among others.
The Exodus Suite track listing:
There Must Be More Than This
The Original One
We Do War
Ifs & Buts
We Are All Wandering
Acta Non Verba