"I needed to make a space for myself where I could say things that I never wanted to write down and I never wanted to hear myself say," Edmonton's Sister Ray says early on Untitled. Recorded live in January of 2017, her debut release captures a powerful minimalism, pairing voice and guitar in an immediately idiosyncratic way.
She explains in the aptly titled "An Explanation" that these are partly improvised songs, ideas she's fleshing out in the moment of performance. In taking that approach, Sister Ray manages to anchor the intimacy of spontaneous revelation with an innate command for affecting song dynamics.
"5:31" is a highlight, its lyrics unspooling over sparse, reverb-touched guitarwork (the songs, like the album, are untitled, denoted here by runtime), while "4:19" feels like the ghost of a country song, both otherworldly and familiar. The rest continue to showcase an impressively intuitive skillset: her melodies never fail to compel, and her lyrics offer vulnerability without slipping into hackneyed confessional territory.
There are some limitations to the recording and its approach, but perfection isn't the point here. Untitled manages to express a rare sense intimacy in the act of realizing itself. There's power in that. (Double Lunch Records)