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Vanguard: Sea Ray – Stars At Noon
By Sam Beebe

“Cinematic,” “atmospheric,” and “psychedelic” are the –ics that come to mind, but those are burnt-out terms that on their own will never do justice to the depth of this music (or perhaps any), so I choose to plumb further.  And don’t think that in using those adjectives we can write Sea Ray off as just some band to get stoned to (not to say that couldn’t be very cool).  It’s more like something to row European canals or hike Mount Rainier to. 

Cinematic implies some relationship to images.  In my head it means, “music that would be great for a film soundtrack.”  I had the coincidental pleasure of seeing this band open for The Stills after I agreed to write a review of their album.  Along with their six-piece selves they brought a seventh element to the performance; a video that was projected onto the back wall of the stage and onto the band members as well.  Far surpassing the average red-then-blue-then-red-again light job, the video shifted through textures and recognizable images in all kinds of colors.  And it was synchronized to the music.  Even the T-shirt they were selling had a drawing of a projector on it.

Atmospheric comes from the Latin root atmos, which means – just kidding, I didn’t take Latin, I just thought that would be the lamest way I could start this paragraph.  Everybody knows what atmosphere is, just about any place you’ve ever been to has got one.  Atmospheric music would be to me music that seems to make a special effort toward giving a distinct sense of place, and/or space.  Stars At Noon works this very magic.  The album is a zeppelin ride that starts at dawn over New York City and goes long into the night out across the Atlantic.  Not only does it call up rich memories of places and atmospheres you’ve already been, it invents new ones in your head.

Psychedelic.  I kind of wish already that I had never chosen, “psychedelic,” but perhaps that is only due to personal biases.  While the thought of psychedelia may have purely beautiful connotations for some people in my parents’ generation, to me, a young guy manhandled by the 90’s, mostly what I think of is a swirl of tye-dye and big bulbous lettering that says, “Trippy.”  But here and now, as a rock critic wanting badly to inflate my understanding of the greater canon of music, I must take psychedelic for its more substantive meanings.  Surely it is quite an honor to be compared to bands like Pink Floyd or say, The Beatles.  So that’s what I’m doing.  Like those bands, Sea Ray makes music that aims to do interesting things to your head, your body, and your perception of the things that surround you. 

Now, they’re from New York City but most contemporary bands I can think to compare them to are from Great Britain.  But if Sea Ray is a grape, Coldplay is a raisin.  And Sea Ray is indeed a grape, a crisp, juicy, seedless, purple grape.  Actually, no, it’s a whole bundle of grapes, complicated to look at and pleasing to hold, a world unto itself.  Music that makes you feel like you have the option to be part of some grander panoramic picture.  Like handing you a pair of wings and showing you just a few of the many different ways you can use them.

Each song is full, brimming with rich instrumentation including full-time cello, two guitars, bass, drums, and keys.  Liberal use of echo effects and prolonged legato chords makes for a sweeping symphonic sound that flies over already established genres.  The band is called Sea Ray for a reason. There is a vastness, a stretching, some mix of water and light, those things that are larger than law or money and have everything to do with love. 

CD Info 

Sea Ray – Stars At Noon
Label: The Self-Starter Foundation
Sister Gone
Stray Dog's Got It Made
Swear To Your Face
Nicholas Ray
Forge Utopia
Hall Of Fame
Listen to samples and Purchase this CD online

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