Restless Night – Julianna Raye

The eerie soundscapes created by Julianna Raye and producer Ethan Jones are superficially reminiscent of the collaboration of Julee Cruise and Angelo Badalamenti. However, while “Falling“ will forever be associated with that weirdest of all American small towns, David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, Raye’s music calls to mind iconic images of the darker side of Los Angeles. Evoking the shadowy rooms and neon-lit midnight streets of film noir, it wouldn’t be out of place in Lynch’s Mulholland Drive.

Mostly concerned with the difficulty of finding and holding on to love, Raye’s songs are convoluted tales, frequently perched on the cusp between ecstasy and despair. They bring to mind a woman who has been to the brink, seen much and learned to expect little. As with the best noir heroines, her brittle shell conceals a strength born of experience but also a troubling intensity that, on occasion, seems to hover on the fringes of madness.

Raye’s voice is a seductive, cool, smoky instrument that always seems a little detached from the lyrics she’s singing. It’s as though she’s been down this road so often before she can hardly be bothered to tell her story one more time – yet is compelled to because no one else will tell it quite the way it is. A little like Dory Previn – both vocally and lyrically – she hasn’t Previn’s gift for melding her bleakest tales with her prettiest tunes. However, the muted melodies grow in appeal with repeated hearing and are greatly abetted by Jones’ ethereal arrangements. One minute deploying ghostly electronics like a 21st century Joe Meek (“Lost Little Orbits”), the next combining plucked bass and accordion (“One Hour”), he creates a series of extraordinary settings whose tension provides the perfect foil for Raye’s drowsy vocals.

Like a hot, sleepless night, Raye’s album is enervating, sensual and mesmeric. The more you take, the harder it is to quit.

– Mark Jennett