Throughout the ten songs on “Communion,” the debut album by Sister Ray (Ella Coyes), there persists a difficulty in understanding where this is coming from and where it is going, by the way it exists so intensely just above the waterline. Her voice is heard in anticipation of exploding, of existing with anger and taking on some of the restraint that persists – in various ways – in the themes. “Communion” experiences itself as particular, personal, in a way that transcends the halls of popular music. Perhaps the Métis origin – an indigenous population of Ontario, Canada – education, explains this approach that overcomes – or convinces – the ordinary things the best. There is a unique way of telling here of experiences lived by everyone. Ordinary feelings seem like something else. Maybe because they never happen, explode, or exist as we think they have to. You learn something here.
In the studio he had the work of the duo ginla (Joe Manzoli & Jon Nellen). With their experience, Coyes was able to create perfect atmospheres that accommodate what he explores with his voice. The guitar sound, for example, traverses decades of indie singer-songwriting, between the suspended sounds of the 1990s and the search for a more direct/roots sound of this century’s guitars, cueing connections between blues and country. Only Sister Ray doesn’t sound like any of that, it exists with a suspended sound that avoids traditional models or labels of the moment.
Perhaps this is why the initial idea persists for so long throughout “Communion” and after successive listenings: you don’t really understand where this is coming from and where it’s going. In the lyrics, Coyes works a lot on emotions/motivations, or invents descriptions that explore sensations about places rather than feelings or morals about others. For us on this side, one hears the non-realization as something sharp and despairing. As Sister Ray, Coley turns pain into the banal and into something that can be experienced as permanent. The most bizarre thing is that, listening to it, you don’t want to get out of it. AS