Ghosts have always been used as inspiration for songwriters, from Johnny Remember Me to Stan Ridgway’s Camouflage and well beyond. A three piece now relocated in Brooklyn but hailing from Georgia, Bambara have taken the 2D media of photography from which to summon up theirs: almost all of the material on Strays was conjured up from a collection of prints bought at a thrift store by singer Reid Bateh.
Whereas the trio’s last album Shadow On Everything showed promise, their latest was recorded after moving to New York to increase the pressure on themselves due to a lack of affordable studio time. A big but calculated risk, the duress has paid off handsomely, twisting Strays into being their finest work yet – and one of the year’s best releases so far.
Bateh has set everything out like chapters in a Flannery O’ Connor novel, with death never far away amongst the rust, wreckage and weeds. Musically full of post punk, wild country and even mariachi flavours, this is not an album stymied by it’s own gravity, instead a white knuckle ride full of desperate charachters, from the doomed Ben & Lily to the fugitive arsonists portrayed via the adrenaline-fueled Serafina.
Taking everything to the edge can be the mightiest gamble of all, but on Strays the line between real and fantasy blurs, allowing everyone the best of both worlds.
You can read the full review here.