Premature Evaluation ::: William Gray ‘Seine’ Ep

After the release of his recent album ‘Flounce’ with local Hangzhou collective Medic Independent; William Gray is at it again and set to release his new Ep ‘Seine’, this coming October 1st. We’ve been trying to keep our ears close to the ground of late and so we are delighted to have received this Ep pre-release for consumption and evaluation.

William Gray’s musical output since his arrival in Hangzhou, China has been nothing short of staggering. In just a few short years (since 2013) he has already put out two homemade solo albums, as well as a 5-song Ep ‘Tish‘ just last year. His brand new Ep ‘Seine‘ is about to drop. So what of it, and how does it hold up?

A FRONT COVER

‘Seine’ (unlike the Qiantang) is a five-song indie-folk Ep that swings more on the acoustic side of the river bank than its audio ancestry. It is immediately striking how much mellower the current of this recording is as Gray takes an approach not too far removed from the likes of Beck‘s balladeering heydays. The acoustic guitar is at the helm and lays foundations for the main spine of the music, while Gray’s lyrics take account of witty and winding stories of life as an independent artist, as well as adding his unique humourous analogies and turn of phrase.

‘Drops in the Ocean’ opens with a spacey tremolo that warbles warmly behind Gray’s layered vocals just before the bass, drums and acoustic guitar groove begins to set the wheels in motion. Offbeat rhythms drive the main melody throughout with additional synthy brass sections that lead the melodic bass on an instrumental, finally contorting and twisting out of shape with backwards samples that suck and pull at the already hallucinogenic mind space.

‘There’ is a huge and roomy acoustic ballad. Opening with the elusive words, ‘You don’t know where I am’, and ‘I’m already there’, perhaps giving us an insight into Gray’s curiosity in psychedelia, existence and metaphysics. It is repetitive and trippy with a contagious backing beat with hand claps to boot! While still retaining some experimental sounds,‘If You Had A Diamond’ on the other hand has a blues swing shuffle feel to it. Distorted bass lines and lyrical refrains make this a catchy number with some lovely guitar fills and dynamics throughout.

‘Sonic Middle Age Spread’ jumps straight into storyline. The dialogue depicts an aging pop-star wrapped up in themselves and the motions of the lifestyle they’ve come accustomed to, with a humourous description of the onslaught of age in ‘a wrinkling derriere’. For me though, one of the less endearing moments of ‘Seine’ is the weak synth violin/string timbre on this song that barely lifts the slow-paced shuffle.

‘The Present’, feels much like an extension of the former song. The production here is really nice though and offers a textured layer that compliments the organ languidly hanging from the vocal melody. The song comes to a close with a crumbling and distorted sample of two people speaking on the phone just to say goodbye. A perfectly placed sample capturing Gray’s end of Ep humour risk. Overall an experimental new release from William Gray. ‘Seine’ definitely ventures into new sonic territory for his acoustic music with some lovely bass and drum grooves, organ melodies, and a reliable sense of wit, sturdy songwriting and craftsmanship.

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