Brenda Beachball Ray / Digi Drifts / Aficionado

I once had the pleasure of interviewing the lovely Lady Ray. Moonboots kindly set it up. Misleading Brenda by assuring her I was a perfect gent. But we only travelled about a third of the way through her musical life. So the interview remains unpublished.

Through charmingly cryptic answers Brenda described a childhood listening to everything from Bollywood, Asha Bhosle, Lata Mangeshkar, to Burt Bacharach, Hubert Laws` The Rite Of Spring and Percy Faith`s Theme From A Summer Place. Her older brother and sister playing Otilee Patterson, Barker & Bilk, Buddy Holly, The Everlys, The Beatles and The Carpenters. Wowing to the sonic experiments of Joe Meek. Dancing to Mod Soul.

Brenda described her sound as “Whizzo cranked-up Shangri-Las” and “the Reggae album Laurie Anderson never made”. Which is perfect. When forced to pick a favourite of her own recordings, she went for Hearts Entwine. The productions that she said she would have liked to have been responsible for were Julee Cruise`s Into The Night and Prince`s Sometimes It Snows In April. Her favourite place was sitting at an all-analogue desk for a final mix-down.

When I asked her about Art, Brenda talked about Giorgio de Chirico, The Singh Twins, Gertrude Moore, Paul Klee, Magritte`s The Voice Of The Winds. The films of Luis Buñuel, David Lynch, Johns Walters and Woo. When asked about the music she enjoyed, Brenda`s eclectic tastes brought in a list that included Lambert, Hendricks & Bavan, Shirley Scott`s One For Me, Assif Tsahar, Susie Ibarra, King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown, Peggy Lee`s Is That All There Is, Horace Silver`s In Pursuit Of The 27th Man, Ornette Coleman`s Science Fiction and Dancin’ In Your Head, Ernest Ranglin`s Below The Bassline, Archie Shepp & Marion Brown, Michael White`s Land Of Spirit and Light, Brother Jack McDuff`s Moon Rappin`, Bobby Hutcherson. And that was just the start. Brenda`s “Three For Sunset” mixed Sun Ra`s Cosmic Rays with Alice Coltrane`s Journey Into Satchidananda and The Chordettes` Drifting Back To Dreamland. Her “Party Starters” were Stanton Moore`s Fallin` Off The Floor, Eddie Harris` Get On Up And Dance, Mac Thornhill`s Who’s Gonna Ease The Pressure, Yello`s The Race.

I compared Brenda`s music to that of Martin Denny and Arthur Lyman. She said she had`t heard of either of them. But the Exotica is there. From 1986`s Tall Dark Stranger to this new E.P. Digi Drifts combining the eccentric Roots and Lovers Rock of Brenda`s Walatta with the particular Pop of her Shellfish Samba, Mandarin Mooch and Theme From Another Space. Flute. A fizz of dubbed-out percussion. Skanking keys. Strings, sighs and wordless harmony. Brenda`s beloved “shimmering top end”. The music winking sexily. Whispering pillow talk. A late Summer`s night dream. The first two tracks exuding a definite dusk ambience. The more urgent Skip Hop To Bop moves slinky. Like House with its kick stripped away. Scat vocals. Melodica. A lullaby on vibes. Echoing Ennio Morricone`s poignant cinematic pocket watch chimes.

Digital is available directly from Brenda here. The aficionados at Aficionado have done the decent thing and pressed up the vinyl. 

Brenda Ray Digi Drifts

Reference Links

Walatta

Theme From Another Space

Poignant cinematic pocket watch chimes 

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