Shilpa Ray – It’s All Self-Fellatio

shilpa You’d have to have been reading this blog for a long time to be able to follow the reasons why I’m excited to see the release of this EP. Well over five years in fact.

I first wrote about Shilpa Ray’s previous band, Beat the Devil, back in early 2008, and then when she dissolved that band and released her debut album with the Happy Hookers I covered that too, about a year and a half later.

I have to confess I thought she was basically done, given I’d not heard mention of her since 2010, but it’s nice to see people sticking it out when so many give up and fade away.

As much as I loved the Beat the Devil stuff, however, I had my reservations about the new material. Shilpa Ray is a little like Angel Olsen in the sense that she has a phenomenal, striking and old-fashioned voice.

A little like Angel Olsen too, she seems to be forever on the brink of over-doing it, and some of the early Happy Hookers stuff seemed to suffer from that. The vocals were a bit too strained, and it all felt a bit contrived, of forced somehow. I kept wishing she’d take it a bit easier.

Her voice is clearly striking enough, there is absolutely no need to push it, and actually here she doesn’t, which is what makes the EP so good. The earthy, bluesy sound is still there, but without that strain her voice just sounds menacing, an effect emphasised by the rather ominous harmonium which has been a feature of her music from the very start.

It’s a dark, unhurried EP which deals in waves rather than hooks, with Ray’s voice rising and falling in duet with the harmonium, part lament and part threat.

She’s touring with Nick Cave at the moment actually, which perhaps explains why physical copies of this only seem to be available from his web shop, and also means that I will get to see her live in a couple of weeks when that particular tour comes to the Usher Hall. I get the impression that will tell me much more about where Shilpa Ray stands now as these four tracks. And that voice in a live setting could be amaaazing!

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