Berlin-based British artist Gemma Ray has been calmly clocking up a cool reputation and cult fan-base on the international independent scene. A self-styled singer/musician/songwriter/producer, she inhabits a panoramic musical planet where pop-noir, sideways blues, gothic folk, 60s girl-group dramarama and cinematic soundscapes make up the weather.
MOJO magazine declared Gemma to be “one inspired music machine”, NME describe her as “untouchable”, and Paste magazine pronounced her to be “blazing her own silvertone trail”. Jimmy Page after seeing Gemma Ray live, was moved to go on record and say that Gemma is “not to be missed!”. Her latest, PSYCHOGEOLOGY, released in February 2019 its intricate arrangements and textures – including choral and string arrangements – is the result of almost a year’s labour determinedly hewn from rare periods of time available between tours.
This self-produced, heartfelt eighth album, was recorded in part at Ray’s own studio in Berlin’s old mint by the River Spree, but mainly with Ingo Krauss at Candy Bomber, buried deep within the Nazi-constructed buildings of the city’s former airport, Tempelhof. These historic edifices witnessed Ray emerge from beneath the shadows of her influences to claim her own unique musical territory, her voice still soaring, despite its naturally lugubrious tenor, and bathed in the ageless glamour of her tremolo guitar, one that, strikingly, she sometimes plays with a gleaming steel knife.
Ray is rarely less than busy, and has repeatedly found herself collaborating with other admiring artists. She’s worked alongside, among others, Sparks (who in fact produced Ray covering their own songs), Suicide’s Alan Vega (their collaboration turned out to be one of his final recordings), Howe Gelb (Giant Sand), Thomas Wydler (The Bad Seeds), and arranger Fiona Brice. She was also invited to perform with Potsdam, Germany’s legendary Filmorchester Babelsberg, and last December she joined them again, this time with Peaches, Einstürzende Neubauten’s Jochen Arbeit and other special guests as part of The Can Projekt, a celebration of ground-breaking ‘krautrock ‘ pioneers Can that took place at Berlin’s famed Volksbühne Theatre.
In Australia, she was invited as special guest to Grinderman, and has appeared on Rockwiz and Spick N Specks. She toured again in 2018, taking in New Zealand for the first time.