Review Summary: Cold, yet utterly personal.
Stray is Erica Dunham, a female producer who is best known for her main aggrotech/industrial project Unter Null
. Though Unter Null focuses on the harsher side of Ms. Dunham's vocals, Stray is decidedly beautiful and at times poetic in nature. This change in style is slightly shocking at first listen, but proves to be a welcome reprieve from the wails and metallic screeches that are lovingly placed in the majority of her other works.
Abuse By Proxy
, an album filled with lonely synthesizers, empty soundscapes, and soft yet impersonal machine beats. It recalls the beauty of early future/synth pop albums, yet retains its own identity when the vocals enter into the mix. Here Ms. Dunham's voice, one so often heard in a harsh tone, is utterly gorgeous and decidedly feminine. The personal nature of the lyrics is accentuated by the sense of longing found in her lines, only to be swiftly melded with an inflection of loss the next. A slight use of reverb on certain tracks (see “Hold On”) only heightens the emotions that the soundscape and vocals portray, making the listener keenly aware of the albums more personal subject matter.
Though softly starting the album picks up pace around midway, with “Intoxicate” waking the listener from their dreaming daze. A fast, almost frantic synth line gives way to a (relatively) heavy drum line as modified high hats tick away in the foreground. Ms. Dunham's voice is heavily filtered here, sounding as if it's coming across a vast chasm, hiding in the background amidst the various instrumentation. Though the words are hard to distinguish the vocals take on an almost classical quality, soothing the listener once more only to have the vision swiftly shattered as Ms. Dunham brings back her trademark rasp. This duality is the first break from the aforementioned colder nature of the album, proving that the track was aptly named.
Though the vocals are a highlight, Abuse By Proxy
could easily stand on it's more instrumental moments as well. “Lost Command” could have been from Vangelis
's Blade Runner soundtrack, or have been featured in Michael McCann's Deus Ex: Human Revolution score. The use of flange following the vocals on “Break Me Free” brings the track to another level entirely, while the slow sweeping nature of the synth lines on “Fade Into You” bring back flickers of 1980's sci-fi flicks. Moments like these can be found in every track, giving the avid listener little moments of blissful reminders of the artists prowess.
Abuse By Proxy
is truly an album to get lost in, caught in a swell of emotion brought on by the vocal performance, lyrics, even the sound alone can bring tears to ones eyes. Erica Dunham not only proves that she can do more than Unter Null, she shatters expectations of what side projects should be, melding science fiction like synthesizers with cold soundscapes to great effect. Though not something the average listener could listen to constantly, Abuse By Proxy
is something fans of electronic beauty should not let pass by.