Cary Grace – Tygerland

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Cary Grace – Tygerland

Since releasing her first album in 2004, Cary Grace has continued to make and produce music that takes its influences from a range of sources wider than that of many other musicians. Country and blues rock, progressive and space rock, folk and experimental inspirations are all to be found within the music she has recorded over the last decade. 2004’s Book Of Rhymes was recorded in Nashville, but the next year Cary left the US and remade her home and career in England, in the Somerset town of Frome. Exactly why Cary chose to relocate permanently to England is something that perhaps only she knows, although one clue is her other line of work as the owner of the Wiard company, which builds synthesizers and sequencing modules for other musicians. Maintaining that business has quite probably kept Cary very busy, Tygerland is the follow-up to 2011’s Constant Things album, with the tracks recorded throughout the four-year gap between releases.

The opening title-track begins with a squall of generated noise that subsides into glacial instrumentation, a musical contrast that is developed over the instrumental piece’s four or so minutes, as Cary and her band introduce themselves with a structured composition that verges on chaotic atonality. The synths keening haphazardly then crunching into low frequency blasts while the guitars and other instruments make their presences known in short passages of variations on the track’s theme and it’s a near bewildering series of musical vignettes given a cohesion that belies the actual track length. The album begins properly with second track “Cyanide”, and this is where we get to hear Cary’s vocal, which is alternately raucous, bluesy and melodic, a voice that can carry the gritty sentiments of the song with some authority; “you won’t be getting out of this one alive” sings Cary with the actual vitriol held at bay. It’s a controlled and measured performance that has Cary and her house band delivering a song that’s two parts torch ballad to one part late-’70s Pink Floyd.

“Orange Sky” is a quite different song to its predecessor. Slower in pace and with a dream-pop ambience, reminiscent of Tamaryn and also “Cities In Dust”era Siouxsie, a blissful melody carried by soaring keyboards and Cary herself in a more reflective mood. “War Child” is another blues rock number; “I have a thousand faces / And most of them are true” sings Cary and her versatility as a performer, switching effortlessly from one style to another, is a notable feature of Tygerland.  Next track “Limelight” takes yet another direction, into the chill zone, a smoothly played blend of the bluesy and dream-pop tracks that precede it. “Razorwire” ups the tempo with its indie-inflected guitar riffs and its lyrical phrasing, and as the song progresses the vocal fades into a series of synth runs, bringing an added depth to what’s an already purposefully written and performed song. “Into The Indigo” takes a post-rock turn and a violin provides an elegiac backdrop to Cary’s thoughtfully constructed lyric; “Will you conduct the stars tonight? / The orchestra is gone” she sings before the violin and guitar duet that makes the track an accomplished highlight of the album.

The actual best is saved for last, however. “Windsong” is 20 minutes in length and it’s both a summation of the songs that have preceded it and a nerve janglingly brilliant instrumental and vocal piece that is perhaps the most complete expression of what Cary Grace wishes to achieve with her music on the entire album. Beginning with a sequence of generated tones and guitar runs, the single repeated bass note hints at what is to come, and as the atmospherics build Cary speaks to us beginning “Many years ago when I was a naked child in the forest / Watching the sun play through the leaves of oaks” it’s obvious that “Windsong” is taking yet another route through the musical repertoire of Cary and her band. And while the song does take some time to develop as Cary speaks to us of “the song of the wind” it’s a track that demands that you stay with it as at around the halfway point the guitar takes on a sullen growl and as Cary tells us more of her experience the song begins to speed up and turn into the sort of verging-on-symphonic performance that only few artists can really make work. It says much about Cary and the musicians around her that “Windsong” is so spectacularly realised.

Tygerland wasn’t recorded as a complete album, with the tracks “Orange Sky”, “Razorwire” and “Into The Indigo” cut separately from the rest of the LP, which was put together last autumn. Although this doesn’t detract from the overall sound of the album, it rather shows just exactly what a versatile sound Cary and her various backing musicians are able to create. “I have a thousand faces / And most of them are true” Cary sings on “War Child” and given the levels of musicianship and technical skills that Cary Grace can draw upon it’s probably unfair to expect her to stick to just one musical style. Tygerland is her latest release, but anyone hearing it will quite probably want to hear more from a woman who would have made some quite different sounding music had she remained in Nashville.

Official Cary Grace site