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Album Review: Island Fire Gemma Ray

25 March 2012 | 10:18 am | Benny Doyle

Fire House is a beautiful contradiction of sonics and themes. It feels distant yet immediately grabs your attention.

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Island Fire isn't so much the title of this record as the situation which these songs were birthed from. Gemma Ray became stranded in Australia during April 2010 thanks to a spewing Icelandic volcano. With lava on her mind, she put the time to good use, nutting out the template for the album in Sydney before returning last year to finish the record.

The resulting 12 tracks have those feelings of natural drama entrenched within them; cinematic brass and string section; tribal percussion and echoing guitar lines. Fire is another constant theme running through the album, from song titles and lyrical connotations to the capturing album artwork. And strangely enough, the closer Ray burns to the flame, the better the songs sound for it.

Fire House is a beautiful contradiction of sonics and themes. It feels distant yet immediately grabs your attention. It has a bubbling positive hook, one of the most joyous found on the record, however, it still feels dark, surrounded by simple piano progressions and all kinds of haunting production wrapping around Ray's voice.  Flood And A Fire meanwhile is a moody torch bearing ode that recalls PJ Harvey in her darker Desert Session hours.

The two bonus Sparks covers tacked on the end don't really bring much to the table. In fact, How Do I Get To Carnegie Hall could be the most annoying song you will ever hear. But it does highlight further that Gemma Ray is very much a maverick in the pop world and a real breath of fresh air. Inventive, exciting and sultry smooth throughout, Island Fire takes you to the rim and back.

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