Track by Track: Sister Ray – ‘Communion’
Posted: by The Editor
Communion shares much in common with the work of Big Thief–Ella Coyes’ voice and songwriting certainly evokes Adrienne Lenker, and the sparse, skeletal folk songs that comprise the record aren’t at all far from the material on UFOF or Capacity. But to reduce Sister Ray’s debut LP simply to comparisons to other artists would diminish the power of Communion. It’s a tense, dark record, but not one without moments of levity or joy. It’s also some of the best music the genre’s had to offer in recent years. Coyes was kind enough to break down the entire record for The Alternative, which can be read below.
I knew that I wanted “Violence” to be the first song on the record when we were working on the delay on the main electric guitar part. It really feels like an introduction to the rest of the record, both sonically and lyrically. I wrote the first half of it driving to stay out of town for a few days after seeing a crow that had been hit by a car–it looked like it had been distracted by scavenging on the highway and ended up with the same demise. It’s one of the only songs on the album that was written quickly, and still feels very vivid to me.
This is the happiest sounding song on the album, which is funny to me as I wasn’t super aware of that until we were doing the sequencing. This song, along with a lot of songs I write, is like a collage of a bunch of little lightning moments, in this one that feel tied to family, trauma, but also resilience. This one was so close to not making it on the record; it was really hard for me to hear its place, but I’m very glad it’s there.
The chorus of “Visions” lives in that little space between dreaming and waking up, like you’re running and reaching, but the harder you try the heavier you get.
“I Want To Be Your Man”
This was the hardest song on the record for me. I wrote most of these going through a breakup, and starting to really quietly have some questions about my gender identity. I was searching for what I wanted, and what that looked like in myself and in my relationship that was very much over, but didn’t stop.
“Reputations” is basically a series of self-affirmations that I needed to hear at the time. I would drive around in my car and listen to the voice memo on my phone with the windows rolled down haha. This song was also my introduction to having fun in the studio, lyrically I feel like this one is just a shameless “we broke up and I’m doing better” song and that was a relief to work on and go back to.
This song is mostly about Instagram doom scrolling. There’s no ethical consumption but I still want my treats. I’m still learning a lot about this song and what it means to me.
“Jackie In The Kitchen”
The title of this one is taken from a line in “I Want To Be Your Man.” They’re from similar moments in time, trying to find where I fit into myself and my desire, and the moments that I saw myself doing things that I wasn’t proud of.
When we started working on this song I wanted it to be something it wasn’t. I pushed hard to try a bunch of things that really didn’t work, and we ended up taking most of what we worked on in those first couple sessions out. This song is old, it felt like I was having to be patient with my younger self, but once we gave it the space it needed it settled in. The Wurtlizer part is also one of my favourite moments, but could only be that way with all of the room it has.
This is one of the songs on the record that feels like it’s really asking for drums, but there’s something about wanting to hear them that felt so much better. I love the feeling of wanting them and not getting them. This song moves in three parts, and narratively moves through a lot of time, the A section and the C section were written a few years apart from each other. It went through many iterations and arrangements, the first section written during the improvised shows that were the beginning of Sister Ray.
I knew I wanted this to be the last song on the record, it’s the only one I wrote in full while we were making the record, and along with “Justice” is a song I’m still learning a lot about. There were many moments in my relationship that mirrored my parents relationship, and I saw myself acting in ways that I would as a child. You try so hard and then watch yourself freak out about traffic the same way your dad would and it feels like it’s all gone down the drain.
Communion is out now on Royal Mountain.
Zac Djamoos | @gr8whitebison
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