Review Summary: Building upon the foundation of its predecessor.
After lying dormant for four years Erica Dunham and Stray return, though to initially mixed feelings. While the band's debut was a shockingly cold onslaught of beauty, its appeal was helped in part by just how different it was from her main project, Unter Null. Letting Go
stays in the same vein as Abuse by Proxy
, yet steps away from a lot of the little intricacies that made the debut so strangely beautiful, all the while claiming new ones as its own. The result is interesting, with Stray trying to maintain an identity while branching away from the sound that helped build its following.
As mentioned above Letting Go
feels a bit simpler than its predecessor. Many of the sweeping synth lines and science fiction sounds have been cut out of this release, though the drum layering has improved significantly. Vocally the album is easier to understand upon first listen, with the flange, reverb, and background vocals pushed aside for a more straight forward, yet still beautiful, approach. However the lack of such layering opens up possibilities for other decidedly fun sounds, with the sounds of a (could it be!?!) sitar and other stringed instruments on “Low and Lower” being an obvious example of this new experimentation.
Another difference lies in the warm tone of the album, though the lyrics are almost as personal as before the album exudes a feeling of warmth and contentment, as if Ms. Dunham is finally at piece with both her life and musical direction. Even the drum work is indicative of this, again “Low and Lower” is the prime example with the melding of drum machine and strings coming off as a homage to Clint Mansell and the Kronos Quartet's Requiem for a Dream
soundtrack. The tracks found within Letting Go
are also longer than most found in Abuse by Proxy
, allowing for more development as well as stylistic choices.
“31 and Falling” is a prime example of one of Ms. Dunham's changes in style, starting off with a building piano piece through a subtle haze of effect distortion. An echo effect follows the vocals, accompanying them as rising strings and a cymbal crash greet the listener. A more obvious beat enters, creating a Rob Dougan
style electronic backdrop to the piano and softly sung vocals. As the track reaches the three minute mark everything slows to a crawl, and as the vocals fade with the last cymbal crash one thinks the track is over... After a brief lull the beat kicks back in, the string and piano accompanying it this time around as Ms. Durham's vocals rise just enough to make the remainder of the track carry more weight than the beginning. While not seeming like much at first glance this change in style is something that the debut lacked, the inclusion of moments like these gives the album a distinct personality and direction.
was initially disappointing, with nothing really calling out until the third track; luckily things change quickly from there. Here that the album truly starts to carve it's own niche, taking away previous elements of the bands sound while simultaneously expanding on others. The longer track length allows for more experimentation, and the warmer tone suits the more straightforward vocal approach perfectly. Stray might have initially captured you with its beauty, but it's here that Erica Dunham proves that she is much more than a one trick act.