Exray’s | Exray’s
Most Likely To: be greater than the sum of its collaborators.
Exray’s are a San Francisco-based duo whose self-titled LP is long on variety and short on hard-and-fast songwriting rules. The debut long player follows on the heels of Ammunition Teeth, which Howells Transmitter released on cassette last year (though it is now available digitally as well).
Though the Exray’s moniker is new, Jon Bernson has been active in the San Francisco music scene for more than a decade. Before Exray’s, Bernson helmed another project, Ray’s Vast Basement, which was loosely termed a “historical fiction concept band.” Bernson may be the sort to try anything once, an approach that serves him and partner Michael Falsetto-Mapp well on Exray’s debut.
Could the upbeat stomp of “Mary Hollow” really be brought forth from the same men who created the psychedelic corridors of “You Forgot” or “Hesitation?” Happily, the answer is yes. Bernson and Falsetto-Mapp handle the depth and breadth of their debut’s sound with ease. Some tracks, such as “Make a Prediction” don’t even try to maintain the same tone throughout the track. Rather than being dull, the album’s gentler moments such as “Stolen Postcard Sun” or “Enemy” encompass everything that a down-tempo number should offer: lilting harmonies and meaningful lyrics housed in a strangely congruous arrangement of guitar, drum machine, piano, and strings.
Some of the album’s fluctuations may be a byproduct of collaboration. Bernson and Falsetto-Mapp called in favors from The Decemberist’s bassist Nate Query and Fresh and Onlys singer/guitarist Tim Cohen, as well as drummer Warren Huegel to bring the record to fruition. Yet there are certain threads that unify the Exray’s sound which belie the number of guest contributions. All of the songs are atmospheric and often heavy with either fuzzed-out guitar or scratchy programmed beats, yet Exray’s are careful not to neglect the melody, a choice which helps to anchor their ambitions. They make sure they’re still writing songs, and not just coughing out indigestible, fibrous noise.
Watch the video for “Ways to Stop Time”: