Gwenifer Raymond: You Were Never Much of a Dancer review – an immersive debut

Gwenifer Raymond has a PhD in astrophysics, lives in Brighton and designs video games for a living. No ordinary human, she also has mercury in her fingertips. You can just about see it glisten as she plays guitar on There Will Be Blood for an introductory 2016 acoustic session. By early 2018, the song had evolved into Sometimes There’s Blood, and a video treatment with creepy Victoriana and taxidermy. Such is the Welsh-born Raymond’s very British take on a niche form known as the American primitive style, where guitars embark on flowing instrumental extemporisations, often ending up somewhere very eastern, sometimes sounding like Indian ragas.

Having discovered the guitar aged eight, when her mother gave her a cassette of Nirvana’s Nevermind, Raymond traced the idols of her idols back to the Delta blues, and then sideways into this folk form. Her immersive debut album pays tribute to the Delta and Appalachia at the same time, on the banjo workouts Bleeding Finger Blues and Idumea, and raises a battered hat to the godfather of the primitive scene on Requiem for John Fahey. Throughout, Raymond takes this roiling, rhythmic traditional sound and stamps her own imprimatur on it.

Source: Gwenifer Raymond: You Were Never Much of a Dancer review – an immersive debut | Music | The Guardian

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Gwenifer Raymond – You Never Were Much of a Dancer

Although the first track on this debut from Welsh-born American primitivist Gwenifer Raymond introduces things with a weary violin line in front of some subtle field recordings, it doesn’t take long before she demonstrates her picking skills. ‘Sometimes there’s Blood’ is a complex, urgent piece of playing that, instead of a fairly typical heavily thumbed bass string holding things down, rings out a higher string, amplifying the sense of anxiety and menace the track suggests. Things stay dusty for ‘Idumea’, a banjo track played in the claw-hammer style, bringing to mind Appalachian music brought straight from the mountains. The structure of the piece uses subtle repetition and drone playing, sounding much like a tune from Nathan Bowles’s A Bottle, A Buckeye set.

‘Off to see the Hangman, Part II’ feels like a companion piece to ‘Idumea’, in that it employs a similar cyclical technique to build a piece with hypnotic qualities that in turn lulls the listener and jolts them with a barrage of harsh guitar. It is clever playing and a lesson in restraint that takes some players a career to find. A couple of short smart pieces keep the momentum and freshness going; ‘Face Down Strut’ is a Fahey-esque rattle that holds a quick melody for a minute and a half before jumping out and introducing ‘Laika’s Song’, a prettier and more considered travel tune that is so welcome it’s a shame it doesn’t quite hit two minutes.