Cleopatra Records / Practical Records – 23rd June 2017
Interdisciplinary artist Rachel Mason has spent the best part of the last two decades carving out her own niche from within the hotbed of the NYC and LA scenes, with music being only one of the many strands of her creative explorations. In between making films, sculptures, and creating performance art pieces which range from the playful to the weird, she’s released quite a lot of albums. Her latest, Das Ram, is billed as ‘a full-blown modern pop-rock album of catchy songs with flamboyant flavor, dramatic vocals in between Siouxsie Sioux and SIA, captivating melodies and poignant lyrics’.
It’s not easy to focus on the lyrics, poignant or otherwise, when there’s so much going on. Das Ram is an album that’s very much geared toward delivering songs with groove and big energy. ‘Rosie’ kicks off with a delicate shoegazey pop verse that blossoms into a glorious chorus propelled by a super-frenetic drum machine with hectic hi-hats and a glistening, glittering energy shimmers.
Das Ram is an eclectic set, and wildly varied. The dramatic orchestral strikes which jut and jar through ‘Heart Explodes’ provide a dramatic landscape for Mason to prowl through en route to a soaring chorus which indicates what Florence and the Machine could sound like if Flo Welch and her crew had any grasp on subtlety.
Single cut ‘Tigers in the Dark’ is a flamboyant gothic-hued disco cut that pulls together the danger of Siouxsie with the brooding electropop sensibilities of Ladytron or Goldfrapp. ‘Marry Me’ goes all Disintegration-era Cure in the mid-section, but Mason’s vaguely shrill and increasingly desperate-sounding imploring to form marital unity (part Kate Bush, part PJ Harvey) is actually quite scary. You’d probably agree just to avert the danger of being strangled in your sleep, although it would only be a temporary postponement).
‘Cancer’ is a wild, woozy ride, a blizzard of wibbling electronica and car horns and stammering programmed drum ‘n’ bass percussion providing the sonic terrain for lyrics that veer from the abrasive to the abstract. ‘The end stage is on!’ she squeals as a refrain before a gritty, funk-infused bass cuts in half way through.
Das Ram is good. Really good. It’s a pop album, and one which will evoke myriad comparisons. And it’ll touch them all favourably, because Rachel Mason assimilates her influences in a way which isn’t merely derivative, but innovative, and Das Ram is an album which wanders through infinite shades of weird, and bristles with tension and myriad shades of darkness.