CD Review

Audra - "Silver Music"

By Marcus Pan

Silver MusicProviding 50% more than their last release of In A Dark Room…, Audra released their latest six track EP on October 16th, 1999. Silver Music includes the same core members of the band that appeared on In A Dark Room…, the Helm brothers Bret & Bart and Janel on bass. Very similar in sound and makeup to their previous release, Silver Music plays more like a sharp-edged jam session than a mega-mixed commercial press. This jagged edge that you can detect in Bret's vocals and the guitar of his brother Bart, especially in songs like Spiked With Black and Rum, adds a certain kind of unmistakable character to the overall sound of Audra's work.

I was lucky enough to review In A Dark Room… previously (July 1999 issue) and spent some time there talking about the origins of the band itself, so I won't take up too much space here to do that. Instead I want to talk about each of the six tracks in turn, concentrating on the highlights. Audra is showing an obvious maturity in their sound, but still have a few of the drawbacks that I became familiar with in their previous release.

In All Our Androgyny starts the album off. This is a definite highlight track for Silver Music. It is complex and riddled with acoustic rhythms and fast-paced percussion showing that Audra has the capability of shrugging off the too-minimal sound that some of their previous works would occasionally produce. In In All Our Androgyny you are treated to a swiftly moving track with a complicated acoustic sound that remains un-chaotic and controlled.

Spiked With Black and Rum is the aforementioned track where the jagged edge of Bart's electric guitar takes center stage. It backgrounds into a more minimalist strumming style during lyrics, but will return to the blaring, jamming sound soon enough. This is a good example of the garage sound that many bands strive so hard to achieve, yet come out sounding like they've mixed things up so much that it almost ends up not even their music.

Returning to their more ominous minimal sound, Audra's Flowers is a brooding song with Bret's voice going to his lower octave bass sound without losing the singing or melodic quality. Gripes with this song include Audra's return, after two very strong tracks to open Silver Music up with, to a more minimalist sound that I recall from In A Dark Room…

I quite like Bart's scraping percussion provided in Venus. But again, the repetition is apparent here moreso than in Flowers. The song is over five minutes in length - probably all it needs is a cut in its running time.

Cupid is one of the closest to Audra's original folk and near-acoustic sound I became familiar with on In A Dark Room…. Cupid will, like Audra's previous work, trade off that acoustic sound with occasional electric guitar licks as well, providing a nice rounded sound. The complication of the track becomes apparent - showing again that Audra is not a band to be confined to only a minimal style and are quite adept at arrangement.

Closing Silver Music is 2 Girls in 1 Dress. This song is over seven minutes in length and my complaints surrounding it match those of Flowers earlier on this CD. It's slow and droning and could easily have been shortened to create a stronger song I think - the length, minimalism and simplistic bass and percussion lines take away from it.

Audra is showing a more mature sound and proving that they can arrange music as good as the next coldwave band. Complication of tracks like In All Our Androgyny and Cupid show this to be true. As time goes on and Audra releases new material, I hope to hear this more complex arranging style become the norm rather than the exception. Audra does, however, keep to their folk-sounding roots and don't seem to be the type of band that are going to come out with some radically different sound the next time around. They've chosen their style and are moving confidently forward in their pursuit to perfect it.

Contact Information:
Post: Projekt, P.O. Box 166155, Chicago, IL, 60616