Usually, when a renowned band gets back together, the group is revisiting a substantive recorded legacy known intimately by its listeners. Gray's case, however, is an unusual one, in that their reunion album also happens to be their debut album. Gray were a part of New York's no wave underground scene in the early ‘80s, and while best known for having included the late, now-legendary visual artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (and at one point, actor/director Vincent Gallo), they created a sound that was way ahead of its time, even when compared to the groundbreaking efforts of their adventurous peers. But the short-lived band never released a record in its initial period of activity; a couple of tracks that eventually surfaced on the soundtrack to the Basquiat-starring film Downtown 81 are all that the original Gray left behind. After Basquiat's death, his old bandmates reconvened to play at his memorial, and subsequently began working on new music. Finally, three decades after their relative heyday, Gray have released an album, Shades Of..., which embarks on new sonic explorations using a similar sonic palette to that of their early work. That palette includes a rather dizzying array of colors, encompassing hip-hop, ambient atmospheres, industrial sounds, minimalism, art funk, moody post-punk, jazzy guitars, spoken word, and even pop. The results may not sound as revolutionary in the 21st century as Gray's similar-sounding early-‘80s music did, but it's clear that the band quietly prefigured everything from post-rock to electronica, even though hardly anyone ever realized it. The original lineup is not completely unrepresented here either -- though most of the tracks were recorded in the ‘90s and 2000s, the 1981 cut "Drum Mode" is included, as are some samples of Basquiat, which are reworked into an album that revisits a short, special window in New York's cultural history but somehow manages to sound strangely timeless.
AllMusic Review by James Allen