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Rayographs Stuart Huggett , May 6th, 2011 11:07

It's been a couple of years since Rayographs' self-pressed 7"s 'Hidden Doors' and 'Francis' introduced the London trio's rumbling garage blues to the wider world. And now their self-titled debut starts in much the same manner, kicking of with 'In Her Light', with Astrud Steehouder's voice still cut from the raven-black cloth of British gothic, turned to a sharp edge of flint under the pressure of city life. London is ever present in the songs and stories of Rayographs, as Steehouder and her bandmates Jessamine Tierney and Amy Hurst relate tales of fever, desire and urban flight. The sharp treble of Steehouder's guitar and Tierney's PiL-deep bass intertwine like barbed wire around the album's opening tracks, shifting speed to match the songs' off-kilter rhythms and changing moods. 'Space of the Halls' accelerates from the claustrophobic intensity of a pulse-quickening crush into a delirium of dream fragments, Steehouder and Tierney's echoing voices leapfrogging one another as the swirl of memories climaxes.

'Providence, Rhode Island', meanwhile, sees Hurst's bouncing drums supporting harsh, metallic guitar and fuzzed-out vocals. The choppy rhythm and one-note solo shows that Rayographs could pick up some easy post-punk points if they had the mind to, but instead they steer the album down much odder paths. 'My Critical Mind' is subdued and slightly menacing, a half-spoken ride through the "pale moonlight" of the city, as Rayographs recount youthful memories of "the smell of a dark venue somewhere in London" and "a woman crying at the station because Princess Diana had died". Its honed poetry and hazy dub production contrast with the later, almost formless spoken word piece 'Falconberg Court'. A hesitant, occasionally panicked or forgetful vocal ("You said! Der-der der-der der...") is accompanied by rambling guitar and swipes at percussion and flute. Undoubtedly improvised, it succeeds in evoking flashes of experience almost as well as Rayographs' more carefully plotted songs.

Some of the album's influences appear half-formed or accidental. The languid, swooping 'November', despite its wintry title, shares some of its shimmering heat with Cath Carroll's England Made Me, while the rolling folksong elements of 'Cartwheels' cross wires with the lullabies of Kristin Hersh. Other moments on Rayographs, though, are easier to pinpoint. 'Three Times' turns from a slow PJ Harvey strum into a frantic dash along a Jesus & Mary Chain surf-riff, and 'Marazion' collides the Bad Seeds at full pelt with Harvey's '50ft Queenie'.

'You are Made of Glass' concludes the album with a short, affectionate lament on an out-of-tune piano and distant drums. By biding their time and digging deep into their collective pasts, Rayographs have expanded on their garage roots and brought a broad-ranging examination of sound and memory into the present.

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