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February 2020
Album review

Bambara - Stray

Far from easy listening, but never less than captivating.
Label: Wharf Cat Records
Released: 14th February 2020
Rating: ★★★★
Bambara - Stray
Published: 11:17 am, February 14, 2020Words: Jamie MacMillan.

An impenetrable darkness lies all over 'Stray', Bambara's swift follow-up to 2018's critically-acclaimed 'Shadow On Everything'. Black of heart and dark of mind, it is a record stalked by Death and seems to only even exist in the depths of night. Once again taking a literary approach to song-writing, here a rotten onion of interconnected stories and layers are revealed on each listen, with characters that seem minor at one point returning to the fore in another, before retreating back into the gloom. Far from easy listening then, but never less than captivating.

The opening 'Miracle' looms like an apparition in the mist, before thunderous baselines and a cacophony of horns kick in. It's noisy, it's full of doom, and it's almost too much. And this is just the opening few moments. The twin threats of actual twins Reid and Blaze Bateh propel each track ever-onwards, the explosive drumming of the latter more than a match for the deep rumble of Reid's vocals. The combination of his deep tones, the gothic tales unfolding and the maelstrom of sound swirling around carry an air of Bad Seeds at their most hypnotic.

Not afraid to switch things up, the spaces between instruments are fully explored and exploited. The addition of Drew Citron and Anina Ivry-Block on backing vocals at points give an ethereal quality that lift the record out of the darkness frequently. With a sound that is hard to pin down, influences from as diverse inspirations as Leonard Cohen and post-punk flash as the band move through the gears. By the end, after warnings that "Death is what you make it, but you'll find out soon" and tales of murderers staring through your windows late at night, you're gonna want to double-check those locks and turn on all the lights afterwards.

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