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Pith

Ruby Fray

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Album Review

As the singer for Olympia, Washington's frenzied noise rock quartet Christmas, Emily Beanblossom provides an ever-explosive presence. The quintessential frontwoman, her vocals soar, scream, and implode in a blurred meeting of danger and fun. With Pith, the debut of her solo project under the name Ruby Fray, Beanblossom dials back the fireworks and the screaming, but loses none of the intensity. Instead, the 12 tracks that make up Pith are a quietly eerie collection of backwoods Americana, dark freak folk, and gothy ballads, all rooted in the K Records tradition of homespun Northwestern indie pop. Though she's aided by a plethora of Olympia musicians on Pith (members of LAKE, Angelo Spencer, bandmates from Christmas, and others all lend their talents) Beanblossom is clearly the epicenter of the songs at all points. Even in her duet with Calvin Johnson on the loopy jaunt of "Mint Ice Cream," Beanblossom's snaky vocal lines float above Johnson's hazy baritone, pushing the song through its weird changes. "Northern Washington," with its spooky murder ballad form and increasingly murky fidelity, kicks off the trend of subtle changes in style and feel that span Pith. Never seeming disjointed, Beanblossom swims from harmonizing with herself in a field hollar-meets-lo-fi-barbershop quartet on the a cappella "What's All This Talk" to ghostly drones and creeped-out electronic gurgles on tracks like "Jandk" and "Penny." The album becomes increasingly darker as it goes, the tunes on Pith's second half blending into each other as a long unsettled symphony. At the center of all these songs is Beanblossom's ceaselessly powerful voice, some campfire-in-a-horror-movie version of Neko Case sharing a brain with Joanna Newsom's complex sense of melody but not her squeaky, polarizing vocal cords. When coupled with her ambitious songwriting and impeccable talent for setting a mood, Pith becomes a chillingly gorgeous collection of eerie moments and haunted atmospheres.

Biography

Born: 2011 in Olympia, Washington

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '10s

Olympia, Washington singer and songcrafter Emily Beanblossom took on the name Ruby Fray in 2011 as a moniker for her solo work apart from her other collaborative endeavors. Beanblossom was active in the Olympia scene in bands like Turf Surgery, Legs the Crab, Karczol, and others, but was best known as the frontwoman for the raucous noise rock band Christmas. Following an extensive U.S. tour with Christmas, the singer retreated for a time to her family farm and began work on the darker, more organic...
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