Sound Advice: Gemma Ray with Spurs (Nov. 9)

Gemma Ray brings dreamy Noir Pop and shimmering atmospherics to MOTR Pub.

click to enlarge Gemma Ray - Photo: Ray Fredrik Kinbom
Photo: Ray Fredrik Kinbom
Gemma Ray
British-born, Berlin-based singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Gemma Ray has enjoyed a consistently critically acclaimed career across seven releases since 2008. Ray’s sound is a smoldering blend of varied styles and approaches — classic soundtracks, dreamy Noir Pop, Retro Soul, Neo-Classical, torch balladry, ethereal Psychedelia — all reflected through mysterious, shimmering atmospherics that create something familiar yet distinctly original.

Ray’s latest is The Exodus Suite, a mesmerizing album that haunts and compels with equal measure. The album was recorded in a Berlin studio on the grounds of the former Tempelhof Airport, and it has a high-ceilinged sound that could only be created out of the natural ambience that comes from recording live (even Ray’s vocals were done at the same time as the rest of the band’s performances). Though she’d written the songs before entering the studio, the album’s big themes, like empathy, isolation, relocation and IRL human connection over technological distraction, were given renewed meaning when it turned out that the hangar beneath the studio was housing thousands of freshly displaced Syrian refugees. It’s perhaps a way of explaining the album’s almost magical vibe, which somehow shifts between warmly intimate and icily distant without blinking an eye. 

“I’m actually used to arriving at the studio feeling very focused and wrapped up in nothing but music and the day ahead,” Ray told She Shreds Magazine about the unique recording experience. “But seeing the previously almost empty airport (where I had also made other records in the past) turn into a new community every day was quite surreal. … I couldn’t help but tap into what was unfolding around me. Imagined or real, they were channeled into every take I made. There is no way in a live recording that the sounds, sights and even smells couldn’t make their way into the record — especially as the main emotions I drew from were about connecting with others, remembering and reaching out to the dear people I lost last year, and also themes of love, compassion for all creatures, class/inequality and togetherness. I think this hangs with the record as much as the music does.” 

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