Gemma Ray and Thomas Truax

Gemma Ray, plus band, and Thomas Truax, plus Hornicator and Mother Superior drum machine, played the Foxlowe Arts Centre on Friday the 1st of March. Following a whistlestop tour of Continental Europe, both artists recently hit England for a series of gigs at a select few venues, including the Foxlowe and the Hebden Bridge Trades Club.

Co-headlining and swapping the running order each night, Thomas Truax was onstage first (and frequently offstage, and outside as part of the performance). A quirky and eccentric mix of storyteller, inventor, performer and recording artist Thomas Truax, who travels the world with his collection of self-made instruments including his legendary ‘Hornicator’ and ‘The Stringaling’, supported Bob Log III at the Foxlowe previously before co-headlining with Gemma Ray this time around.

Mixing electro-acoustic steel guitar and live rhythm loops, plus percussion sounds coaxed from his Dr Seuss meets steam punk meets Heath Robinson-esque “drum machine”, called ‘Mother Superior’, Thomas Truax gradually builds up a magical and hypnotic sound over which he narrates tales about “about clones, butterflies, dogs, technology, loneliness, and other beautiful and sad things”. Further assorted homemade instruments, contraptions and gizmos, including ‘The Hornicator’, which is constructed from the shell of a junk gramophone horn, are utilised to create Thomas’ sound, and strings, springs and attached noisemakers on the afore-mentioned gizmos are plucked and set in motion too.

Thomas doesn’t confine his eccentric but captivating performance to the stage either, as he frequently wanders into the crowd whilst playing, and even goes outside the venue during ‘Full Moon Over Wowtown’, leaving the audience guessing as to which door he’ll reappear through or even if he’ll come back at all (hint – he always does). Wowtown is a surreal place from which some of the characters and events in Thomas’s songs originate, and fans of his music (or even just fans of the bizzarre and David Lynchian Americana) can subscribe to The Wowtown News, an email newsletter that he sends to a long list of email subscribers (GDPR rules may or may not apply in Wowtown).

Hailing from Essex but via Berlin, Gemma Ray and her band followed Thomas onstage for the second half of the co-headlining show.

Gemma Ray inhabits a similarly David Lynchian Americana audio world, with a woozy, hypnotic but unsettling mixture of Peggy Lee with Link Wray and Dick Dale-esque surf guitar (an accomplished and in-demand guitarist, Gemma plays with a wicked-looking kitchen knife at times, used as a slide running up and down the fretboard, and lodged behind the rear pickup on her guitar when not in use). Her and her band’s sound is akin to staring at a Blue Moon whilst underwater in the Pacific Ocean, sometime between the late 50s and early 60s, or the surfer from Crystal Voyager going under one too many times to the accompaniment of the Pink Floyd soundtrack. Both retro and yet contemporary, Gemma Ray and her band bewitch and beguile and ever so slightly unsettle (I’m reminded of that large kitchen knife again at this point!).

Eight album, called Psychogeology, is out now, and has been described by Gemma as ‘an ode to the majesty of landscape, the enormity of nature and time, and the inevitability of every human life eventually forming a minuscule part of further landscapes’. Music News states in their Psychogeology album review:

“This out-look has been honed from extensive global travelling and where [the Situationist concept of] ‘psychogeography’ is the seeking of a wandering un/subconscious resonance garnered from ‘urban’ areas, Ray goes ‘rural’, discovering a broader, wider, more expressive and expansive feeling of nature’s rhythms and tangents more attuned to the body’s inner torrents: the art of wandering in tandem with the art of wondering. ”

The review also references surf guitarists Dick Dale and Link Wray, and elements of Pipeline by The Chantays, and even perhaps ahead of his time but deeply troubled Joe Meek, Peggy Lee, the epic soundscapes of Pink Floyd, and all-girl groups like the Shirelles and Shangri-Las and torch singing chanteuses Billie Holiday and Julee Cruise could also be said to be part of the sonic mix.

The show finished with Thomas joining Gemma on stage to duet on a couple of songs, reinforcing the meeting of minds and bond between the two artists.

The Foxlowe thanks everyone who came out to the show, as did both Thomas and Gemma on the night, and we look forward to welcoming them back again in the future.

Thomas Truax at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

Thomas Truax at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

Thomas Truax at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

Thomas Truax at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

Gemma Ray at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

Gemma Ray at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

Gemma Ray and Thomas Truax at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

Gemma Ray and Thomas Truax at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

All photos by Giles Metcalfe.

 

 

Search
Categories