The last time Gemma Ray and Joe Gideon shared the stage together, it was duetting on “Leather & Lace”, in 2015 at the Barbican – a tribute concert to Lee Hazlewood that also featured the likes of Josh T Pearson, Kathryn Williams, Fran Healy and members of Portishead and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds.
Since then both acts have released new records and this double-bill sees both perform their respective albums with their respective bands in the UK for the first time (at least outside of London). Who knows, we may even get treated to a joint finale.
“Pithy, powerful, lyrically erudite and observational, post-financial crisis English blues.” Mike Barnes – Writer for Mojo and Wire, and author of the acclaimed, Captain Beefheart: The Biography
“Joe Gideon’s music is at the same time strangely elegant and yet scuzzily dissolute; intellectual and yet visceral; hilarious and yet deadly serious. He’s an off-kilter rock ‘n’ roller and a warped balladeer of the first water.” Joe Cushley, Balling The Jack – Resonance FM.
With his bandmates ‘Bad Seed’ Jim Sclavunos and multi-instrumentalist Gris De Lin, Joe Gideon will be playing tracks from his debut solo LP ‘Versa Vice’ released earlier in the year on Bronzerat Records, described by Mojo as, “a raw dark rock debut, telling an intensely spirited story”.
Gemma Ray’s latest opus The Exodus Suite is a dramatic 52-minute odyssey through her unique style of torch song psychedelia. Described as “beautiful, as ever” (MOJO****) and “a moving collision of past and present” (UNCUT 8/10), the album was recorded live in seven days at the infamous Candy Bomber Studios (situated in the former Tempelhof Airport in Berlin) by Ingo Krauss. The Exodus Suite will be released on 20th May 2016 on Bronzerat Records.
The album’s title is a reference to the unexpected yet inescapable fact that during The Exodus Suite sessions there were 8,000 Syrian refugees housed in the hangar beneath the studio. The stark reality of the refugees’ circumstances (whom are still housed there to this day), and the experience of these sights, sounds and smells right within spitting distance, lent a profoundly immediate dimension to Gemma Ray’s lyrical explorations of love for all life, exile and relocation, nature’s sovereignty, technology, and class and most of all the need for human empathy.
The Exodus Suite is set in two parts, starting with a hymn-like paean to nature’s forces, “Come Caldera”, a prelude that then kicks into the soulful grit of“There Must Be More Than This”, an Afro-Beat meets Krautrock gambol with a sprinkling of Ethiopiques (courtesy of guest pianist Carwyn Ellis (Edwyn Collins/Zarelli). The next track “The Original One” is a soft lament about modernity, followed by “We Do War“, a chilling lullaby that shifts into a brutal siren song before “Ifs & Buts”, a Latin-tinged, surf-esque wig-out, rounds off Part 1. Part 2’s opener “We Are All Wandering”, has a Beach Boys meets The Wicker Man sound which segues into the 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”, an intimate guitar and voice number, 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” rounds off the album.
Some album formats come with the bonus track “Caldera, Caldera!” a playful and up-tempo companion piece to “Come Caldera”. The vinyl version of the album offers these two songs back to back on a bonus 7”, The Calderas.
For this album Gemma recorded all her lead vocals live with band, with only backing vocals, organs and extra flourishes added in afterwards. Aiming to capture a natural sound that revels in any so-called human “flaws”, the album’s monumentally ornate sound was sculpted out of this simplicity, with microphone spill being an integral part of the production approach.
The Exodus Suite is performed by Gemma 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!”).