Closer Listen reviews STAPS

Miskatonic’s second release, our producer, Rafi Sofer, played us what he called a “rough mix” of a song off his band’s upcoming album. He said they weren’t happy with it yet. We were blown away (and briefly considered abandoning our musical pursuits in favor of indoor gardening).

Rafi’s band, The Invisible Rays, were working on their sophomore release, Salute The American Popular Song (2009), an epic work that took three years to complete. If I had to choose one word to describe the Boston-based Rays it would be cinematic. Their songs are cinematic in scope: their vast soundscapes take advantage of decades of technology, from Mellotrons and Roland Drum Machines to Fender Deluxes and Symphonic Bass. Their influences are cinematic: the band uses spoken word samples (from sci-fi b-movies, old radio shows, news broadcasts, presidential speeches, etc.) in place of traditional vocals. And they are cinematic in performance: The Rays have created high quality, entertaining videos for nearly all of the songs on Salute, and their live shows are a visual extravaganza. (I was lucky enough to be at the CD release party for Salute. The band projected the videos behind them as they played in perfect time to them.)

Although The Invisible Rays are a traditional four-piece band: guitar (Rafi), bass (Eric Kreuter), keyboards (Brendan Haley), and drums and samples (Ned Armsby), they sound nothing like it. Constantly experimenting with technology, the band layers and manipulates parts and instruments until they no longer sound like their sources. Ambitious and innovative, their songs are painstakingly crafted in a variety of tempos and time signatures, layering and juxtaposing sounds to create something fresh and powerful. Yet for all the artful science behind it, the songs often maintain a punk rock sensibility. Influences can be heard — the B-52s, Throbbing Gristle, the Ventures, Sonic Youth — but the overall effect is unique. The Rays can be humorous, creepy, melancholy, or uplifting, but they are always engaging.

The band is currently working on finishing the final two videos for Salute. (I’m hoping they release a DVD.) They’re also experimenting with new sounds and sculpting them into new songs.

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