Jess Webberley has a gift. As the brains (and everything else besides) behind Graywave they have, pretty much since their very first single even, proven adept at adding ambience, establishing tone, and building an atmosphere. Ok, so not all of their songs will stick in your memory, but they’ll certainly linger in your feelings.
Last year’s ‘Planetary Shift’ was perhaps too soft and too sweet to live up to its title but it was a surprisingly effective exercise in combining dreamy pop and shimmering shoegaze to create ultra-satisfying cosmic swirls of sound. A lot of the same sonic pieces are in play on ‘Rebirth’, but the mood has changed. While every new Graywave release has had additional grit and subtle darkness swirled in, this thing lives under a storm cloud and rumbles like thunder. It feels like the work of a whole new band. This time, Webberley could hardly have picked a better title.
Opener ‘Build’ is dark and direct- anchoring layered, ethereal vocals and reverberating guitars with solid synths and a hefty Nine Inch Nails-esque bassline. The title track goes from the glittery heights of Slowdive to dense Deftonesian depths. And ‘Red’ is a haunting, swirling, but significant thing, the kind of textured, layered music that feels heavy without ever really erring towards being metal. Webberley hasn’t completely swapped daydreams for nightmares- ‘Exoplanet’ is a lush mid-tempo standout- but let’s just say this thing isn’t so much “atmospheric” as covered in a fog so thick you could reach out and touch it.
It’s a more confident, more complete sounding record than ‘Planetary Shift’ then, but, somehow, it’s less compelling. The production is more powerful, the atmosphere undeniable, but there’s a nagging dreary feeling, and a drifting, samey quality to some of the guitars. It feels purposeful in places, but it feels a little like hard work too. I love how immersive and dense some of these songs feel, but perhaps I need just one of them to really soar.
Jess Webberely has a gift. She really does. And if she can find a way to combine her innate knack for painting a mood with some really memorable, meaningful songwriting, the whole world is going to realise that.