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Delicate Strings: Rayons (Featuring Predawn)

Predawn’s always sounded intimate, the folk-leaning songs on her Ten Minutes With Predawn EP and her 2010 longplayer A Bird In The Hand coming off like personal journal scribblings. Yet even on those sparse and confessional tracks, the Tokyo artists never sounded particularly fragile – even on the downtrodden “What Does It Mean?” she kept her chin up, narrating the end of relationship with a writer’s eye for detail. So it is surprising to find Predawn coming off as glass-like and vulnerable as the contributing vocalist for Rayons, a project peddling classical music sounds. Their new album After The Noise Is Gone almost chokes on plentiful amounts of piano and violin, yet the six-song release never feels like an educational chore. Rayons constructs lovely little numbers from these sounds that are more than museum pieces, but drip (literally on final song “Take Me To The Fairyland” which features what sounds like the sample of a leaky faucet) with an emotional atmosphere. Half the tracks here are instrumental, and in a year that has been dominated by electronic music thus far, Rayons have put out a great album with very little digital touches.

Yet what makes After The Noise Is Gone one of 2012’s best listens so far is Predawn, who sings on the other three songs. Her voice trembles on those songs, especially, the skeletal opener “Ivy.” Whereas in her solo work she marches ahead undaunted, “Ivy” finds Predawn with her head tilted down slightly for most of the song, though near the end sees her push her voice to a register she never approached on A Bird In The Hand. Album highlight “Halfway” finds her at times trying to become invisible beneath the piano and strings, yet ends on such a sunny note (her voice matching the mood) that it feels like a Hollywood ending – helped by the soundtrack-worthy music around it. Rayons do a great job on their own album too, but Predawn makes this her own by delivering her best vocal performances to date on this album. Listen to “Halfway” below.