Sunday, April 27, 2008

Two Sides Of the Same Summer: Rhesus and Lian Ray

I decided to do a double post today in two ways - I'm discussing two discs in this post, and I'm also doing two posts today because I need to put up my weekly mix. Things got a bit backed up when I moved home from university (three full days on the Trans-Canada Highway killed any energy I had to write), so hopefully I'll be able to spread my posts a little more evenly this coming week. Anyhow, on to the subjects of this double feature. I came across the French band Rhesus last year and liked the song I heard from their earlier album Sad Disco. Then I chose to order their latest album, The Fortune Teller Said, off their MySpace page (much easier than trying to track it down anywhere else), and I was very pleased with their poppy guitar rock. Based in Berlin and comprised of vocalist/guitarist Aurelien Marie, drummer Simon Nodet, and bassist Laura Rosello, Rhesus performs in English.

Aurelien's high voice alternately quivers and rasps, sometimes sounding like The Sleepy Jackson's Luke Steele, as he expresses jubilation, pain, and anger. Album opener, No Directions, is a sunny ode to being happily directionless. Hey Darling, the only single officially released from The Fortune Teller Said, is a catchy, breezy song that pumps along to fast guitars and then expands into a chorus that feels like breathing in so deeply your lungs hurt. Reining in the energy of Hey Darling, Little Things shambles along to Aurelien's lazy vocals. Picking up once again, the following track I Suppose is a raucous number that emulates a frustrated relationship, but then the music comes down to showcase a beautiful blend of Aurelien and Laura's voices as they insist they don't want to start a fight. Berlin is a pretty little interlude under two minutes that imitates an old French record crackling away on a grammophone as Aurelien plays a ukelele (it reminds me a bit of the song Guilty from the Amelie soundrack) One of my favourite tracks is Will You Follow Me Out, which takes you on a moodier turn with its thrumming bassline and Aurelien's voice comes down to a near-whisper. Another quieter song is Together, in which Aurelien is accompanied only by an acoustic guitar for the first two thirds of the song, and I Still Think of You is a tender ballad of regret. Overall, The Fortune Teller Said is a youthful, exuberant record perfect for a summer day or a road trip.

I soon discovered that Aurelien had his own solo project under the name Lian Ray in which he self-releases EPs every few months. I purchased the latest one entitled, We Are the Fox and the Pony, and I was charmed by the low-key, lo-fi music, enchanting lyrics and homemade artwork (apparently created by a very talented Mary Oh). As Lian Ray, Aurelien explores the slower, acoustic side of Rhesus more fully while also creating more magical, personal narratives than in Rhesus. In many ways, this EP recalls the sound of the title track off Sad Disco, a slightly folkier number. The EP includes three versions of the The Fox and the Pony - an instrumental theme, the original demo, and a piano version - and all of them are beautiful, though I think I like the instrumental the best with its plinking xylophone-like sounds. The other two versions with their vocals spin a sweet, quirky story where "Your name sounds like a Japanese candy and I'm standing there being a clown." Our Correspondence is melodic and filled with fantastic, strange vignettes like "You're singing lullabies to babies on a boat." Ink & Paper Twin could have been a Fionn Regan song, and Kings Street is a mournful ballad interspersed with accordion sounds and a European airport announcement. Give Me a Call, a song available for free download from Lian Ray's MySpace, is a brief, bouncy tune of loyalty, and the final track of the EP, Mystery's Never Home is hazy and dreamy as Aurelien croons over soft guitars and piano. While The Fortune Teller Said is an album of perpetual motion down a motorway in summer, We Are the Fox and the Pony EP is a blissed out lounge in dappled sunlight.

MySpace for Lian Ray:

Hey Darling - Rhesus

Will You Follow Me Out - Rhesus

Ink & Paper Twin - Lian Ray

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