Berlin-based British artist Gemma Ray has been calmly earning a cool reputation on the international independent scene since 2008. And with a new self-produced album titled Milk For Your Motors – which features collaborations with Alan Vega (Suicide), Deutsches Filmorchester Babelsberg, Howe Gelb (Giant Sand), and Toby Dammit (Iggy Pop/Swans) – under her belt for an August 26, 2014 release, the music keeps on coming.
A self-styled musician/songwriter/producer, she skirts somewhere between pop-noir, sideways blues, gothic folk, ‘60s girl-group, and cinematic soundscapes. The Wall Street Journal has described Ray’s music as “An eerie aural kaleidoscope that conjures up thoughts of what an album by Mary Weiss of the Shangri-Las produced by David Lynch would have sounded like. Though it echoes with references to mid-’60s melodramatic pop, it’s of the moment and a delight”; BUST has declared “Her aesthetic may be retro, but the tough, moody perspective she brings to vintage song structures feels fresh and ultra modern”; Variety deemed her “Intoxicating”; and Paste pronounced her to be “blazing her own silvertone trail.”
Ray has been earning praise since her 2008 debut LP The Leader. Released against a backdrop illness that left her unable to tour and promote it, she instead stayed at home and wrote and recorded her Independent Award-winning album Lights Out Zoltar!, released in 2009. While promoting this album – which caught the attention of NPR, NME, MOJO, SPIN, and VanityFair.com, among others – Ray happened to record an eclectic album of cover songs, pulled from memory rather than the page, between Boxing Day and New Years Eve in New York with Heavy Trash’s Matt Verta-Ray. Bronze Rat released the album, It’s A Shame About Gemma Ray, in spring 2010.
Ray’s next two new albums were released within 10 months of each other in 2012 and 2013: Down Baby Down, a mostly instrumental or choral, vinyl-only 'fantasy soundtracks' album with a guest spot from drummer Thomas Wydler (Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds), and Island Fire, an album of lavish orchestral pop-noir featuring a unique and bold collaboration with Ron and Russell Mael, a/k/a Sparks, that also featured a new occasional backing band, the 65-piece Filmorchester Babelsberg. The latter release – which she partially recorded while stranded in Australia during the Icelandic volcano eruption over two weeks in April 2010 – also saw her perform on the UK's Top of the Pops and entered the US college radio CMJ chart Top 20.
An Independent Music Award winner, Ray has toured extensively and has recently been seen as special guest to artists such as Grinderman, Marianne Faithfull, and Kris Kristofferson.