One of my favorite painters is Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema. For his realistic depiction of textures and vivid drawing of flowers as a focus point, he was seen as a perfectionist, bringing a sense of wonder to mundane situations. Today’s album coincidentally has a bush of flowers like the ones Alma-Tadema would draw on its cover, but the metaphor extends even beyond that. Straya is an experimental post-rock quartet from Minnesota that also seems eager on delivering a highly rich and detailed texture.
Their album Sobereyed (which has been out since the 16th of February) is an adventure through carefully illustrated soundscapes, putting an emphasis on the word ‘experimental’.
The first track I want to talk about is “Made Lighter”. Picking up where the previous track (“Hollowring”) stopped, a warm pulsating synth greets the listener, and a halo made of bass-y warmth caresses said synth in a fashion that instantly makes every post-rock fan feel at home. The smooth synth gives off a feeling reminiscent to In Love With A Ghost, while the occasional chiming of a glockenspiel gives it a nice ephemeral texture. As the surrounding instrumentation flourishes, the synth remains a constant in the track, serving as a perfect anchor point for the listener and the band to evolve around. As soon as said synth ebbs out, it gets replaced by another lead line, this time higher and slower. With an increasingly droning bass and arbitrary glockenspiel melodies dancing around the track like a ballet of fairies, “Made Lighter” gains an almost surreal atmosphere. A truly stunning track to listen to!
But what about other tracks on the album? Sobereyed, of course, gives the listener a lot to experience. A new song, a new texture, a new adventure. It is a perpetual movement of sounds and changes.
A song that sets an example as a strong contrast to the aforementioned one is “Leach”. Its ambiance stems from a brooding, filthy place. Bearing accents of screamo while being almost meditative in its noisy, droney nature, it is something I haven’t heard before. Walking the fine line between being calming and agitating, this track brought a certain ‘diamond in the rough’ feeling to my ears. An interesting change of pace, and something I would also call one of the most interesting songs this year.
Straya’s Sobereyed is something implied yet not often seen in music, namely a work of art. With rich textures, enveloping ambiance, and experimental ideas, the band comes forth as one of the most forward-thinking groups out there. Like a peacock reveals his feathers, the album shows ambiance to different degrees in the most awe-inspiring colors. Although the album doesn’t sound coherent from track to track, it certainly isn’t meant to be listened that way. It is more like a slide show, in that every song reveals another motif; at some points, exceptions may apply of course. The production is well-made but also not unheard of. I for my part am very glad to have discovered this gem.
Notable Tracks: “Leach”; “Made Lighter”
FFO: Godspeed You! Black Emperor