Reflecting Skin

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Haley Review

by Deanne Briggs

No, they're not another Sire or 4AD treasure, although they do call to aural memory such acts as My Bloody Valentine, Cocteau Twins, and even the Jesus and Mary Chain. Reflecting Skin call their sound "apocalyptic gypsy music," and given their experimental approaches (bassist Alex Milne uses a bowed bass, guitarist Christian Gilbert applies manic sampling alongside riffs, and there's even mention of a folded wine glass played by the album's mixer, Bruce Mcfarland), it's easy to accept this self-ascribed category. Reflective Skin successfully express their nightmarish lullabies on their debut, Haley -- a macabre mix of instruments and samples maintain a powerful, unique current in their torrential wash of sound. The exotic inflections are also due in large part to Gilbert's employment of an odd-stringed instrument that sounds like the Greek bouzouki. These three musicians, formerly of the goth band One of Us, offer a definite goth-tinged base juxtaposed with the echoing, ethereal chords of vocalist Leah Chandra, whose singing is best described as eerily lovely. The tracks seem to follow a definite order, some functioning as nebulous introductions or interludes for the more intense, rousing numbers that follow. The first track, "-," is more of a droning distortion than a song in and of itself, laying the foundation for "Seven Mile Drive," which in turn introduces the powerful rhythm work of drummer Dave Mcfarland. Quite literally, his beats drive toward the album highlight, "Heavy Hand," a wild but enigmatic piece tempered with occasional breaks in the song's potent, thick sonic structure. "See You" is nearly an a cappella interlude, spotlighting Chandra's vocal range. She ventures into high octaves that contrast provocatively with a low, steady, monotone synth sound echoing support. For the most part, Haley delivers what its title implies -- a flash of fire and light that is otherworldly. Its intensity fades occasionally, but that works to the album's advantage, accenting the stronger pieces in the contrasts, not unlike a comet's tail to its core. As a debut, it is impressive and promising work from this fresh group of Boston shoegazers.

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