Wray have released the lead single “Nebulous.” The track is off the Birmingham, Alabama band’s LP Youth/Blank World, out April 3 via Earth Libraries. ” Nebulous is a departure from the creature-of-habit that is our process,” says bassist/vocalist David Brown. “We let this song take hold organically and molded it through addition and subtraction. It’s smooth and rough, blurry and sharp, playful and serious.”
“A lot of people hang on to the idea that we can have some kind of utopia some day, that human beings will evolve to a pure state. But if the human race could start over, would things look any different?” says bassist/vocalist David Brown. Along with bandmates Blake Wimberly (drums) and David Swatzell (guitars/vocals), Brown felt fueled by their status in a blue city in a red state, in the American south with its morally complex past, in a modernity fueled by conflict and difference. Though they only planned on recording a pair of songs, they came away with a full album, but one separated into two clear halves: Stream of Youth holds the record’s hopeful tracks, while Blank World comprises the fatalistic songs.
While WRAY’s first two records featured abstract imagery, the new record’s pair of Boris Vallejo paintings showcase the expressive, expansive duality. A Peruvian painter known for sword and sorcery artwork in the vein of Tarzan and Conan the Barbarian, Vallejo is a legend in the fantasy world. Brown grew up collecting trading cards with his artwork, and happened upon a shoebox full while working on the record—and immediately knew it would be perfect for WRAY’s latest. “I reached out to Boris back in 2016 for a single image, before we knew it’d be a split album,” he explains. “The color palette is super moody, with a lot of dark grays, dark blues, and pinks. It was something new to explore, looking at that imagery, I used it to help tell the story of our record.”
“We started working on this album in 2016, and since then my wife and I have had a child, Blake moved to Chicago, and Swatzell joined a second band—Unwed Sailor,” Brown explains. WRAY self-produced the album at the home studio of label Communicating Vessels in the Birmingham neighborhood of Woodlawn, experimenting, writing and recording at their own pace. But despite being released almost four years since they began recording, the cohesive Stream of Youth / Blank World tells a grand story across its halves.
“When we started this project, it was just about exploring repetition—which is something that runs throughout Krautrock, techno, and even ambient music,” Brown explains. “One of us would go into the studio for a few days to work out and write synth parts, percussion lines, or guitar layers, and we had a lot of room to let it all breathe.” That sense of space is particularly evocative on album opener “Jogging”, Wimberly’s snare hit unlocking the door to a new world. The interlocking synth lines and delayed guitar feel stretched through a wormhole, as the rippling, straight-ahead drums and bass push constantly ahead. “Escape, escape, escape,” Brown repeats in a rough-hewn voice, while a falsetto joins in on the constancy: “You were trying to/ You were looking to.”
Feb 21 – Brooklyn, NY – Alphaville ^
Feb 22 – Philadelphia, PA – Underground Arts *
Feb 23 – Pittsburgh, PA – Club Café *
Feb 24 – Detroit, MI – El Club *
Feb 25 – Milwaukee, WI – Colectivo Backroom *
Feb 26 – Chicago, IL – Sleeping Village *
Mar 27 – 29 – Boise, ID – Treefort Fest
Apr 3 – Birmingham, AL – Seasick Records – Release Show
Apr 7 – Apr 8 – Birmingham, AL – Secret Stages Festival
^ = with New Love Crowd
* = with Man Or Astro-Man?