By: Rich Buley
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Released on January 15, 2016 via Communicating Vessels
Naming your second album after a fourth century female Greek philosopher is certainly not typical behaviour for artists associated with shoegaze. In a genre where urban ennui (Nowhere, for example), wistful melancholy (Just For A Day) or blissed-out euphoria (Everything’s Alright Forever) tend to be the themes of choice, it is perhaps a deliberate attempt by this Birmingham, Alabama three piece to position themselves as something more than the latest in an unbelievably long line of recent wall of sound revivalists.
Wray emerged a couple of years ago with a self-titled debut album that had as much in common with the hypnotic sonic mantras of Loop as it did the shimmering soundscapes of Slowdive. In fact , despite its promise, the record eventually lacked true identity, with the band never truly nailing their colours to the psych/krautrock mast, nor sailing off into a shoegaze sunset.
Hypatia is different. Wray have taken a definitive and possibly unexpected step in the direction of hook-laden post punk, imbued with a dark energy but bursting forth with crystalline guitars. Think early Cure maybe, or more recent exponents of goth-tinged, melodic indie rock, such as The Domino State and The Foreign Resort. The sparkling vitality of DIIV’s debut album also comes pleasantly to mind. There is an exuberant swagger to a lot of the twelve tracks on show here, which does indeed take one’s listening experience far beyond the fragmented noise and buried vocals of a lot of third-rate MBV clones knocking about these days.
Things begin serenely and rather gorgeously with the gentle chimes and washes of ‘Below’, with David Brown’s blissful, velvety vocals the perfect accompaniment. It fades out in under three minutes, which is a shame, but we move quickly into the cascading chords and motorik chug of ‘Giant’ and the title track, an elegant, excellent lead single, with a compelling finale. The guitar work and enigmatic style of The Wedding Present comes to mind on tracks like ‘May 23rd’ and ‘Regular’. It cannot be often that a band from the deep South has sounded so convincingly like they’re from the murky industrial north, swapping continents mid-sentence, but I guess you could also point at the blustery chic of New Yorkers Interpol as another touchstone of Wray’s delivery.
The extended, semi-psychedelic wig-outs from their debut are conspicuously absent, although the short-lived instrumental ‘Diamond Gym’ does perhaps briefly hint at the fact that their playful, experimental side is only stifled temporarily. But brevity is very much the name of the game here, with the whole lot swirling out in just over thirty eight minutes. Wray sound more driven, focused and energetic as a result, and have produced a follow up album that, with the right level of exposure in the correct places, has enough depth and conviction to propel them into the mainstream.