Brooklyn indie duo the Veda Rays are the most polished sounding band of their echelon. It feels slightly wrong even to call them indie, as the term still suggests songs (and, more often than not, talent) in miniature. The songs on debut album Gamma Rays, Galaxy Rays, Veda Rays were unafraid of sounding masterful, a very welcome change from what the unkempt and apathetic Brooklyn scene has become. Despite personnel changes and being pared down to a two man line-up with an arsenal of effects pedals, the fearlessness at showing off considerable command remains. Two new EPs, Die Fast and Life Kills, reveal a band aspiring to a signature sound and taking big, confident steps toward it.
The first of these EPs, Die Fast, sets its sights on poppier terrain before heading in a more atmospheric direction. “Better the Devil” showcases front man James Stark’s proficiency at writing hooks and bending his voice in ways that save this fairly ordinary sounding number from the usual conventionalities. The girl group undercurrents of “Better the Devil” never overpower it nor make it seem like a bandwagon hop. Elsewhere on the EP, Stark and drummer Jason Gates waltz through an early R.E.M. homage (“Blew By You”) and a Lou Reed-inspired knockout (“Old Long Since Now”) buoyed by a savvy that keeps the two from sounding like mere imitators.
On Life Kills, things become statelier. A guest spot from Julee Cruise (known for her work with Angelo Badalamenti and David Lynch) adds just the right touch of odd suspense to “Time is a Vise”. Songs such as this and “Untitled 93” perhaps showcase the duo’s most current reference point, that being Deerhunter. Due to Bradford Cox’s ongoing influence on the current indie scene, it’s easy to overlook any band that could conceivably be compared to one of his projects, but where the Veda Rays are concerned, the flourishes which invite the comparison hardly feel derivative. Whenever a song comes on too familiarly, such as the glam-riffing “Noble Beast”, a bit of technical wizardry or sinister subject matter saves it from being a rehash of a rehash.
In the time when any semblance of a New York scene has been reduced to a joke, and programming a computer to make some sounds fit for warbling over has become the clearest route to riches, the Veda Rays risk being too authentic to be understood. It almost seems acceptable to round the Veda Rays up, along with the Antlers and whatever other bands are actually showing promise, and shelter them from the noxiousness of today’s music scene. The Veda Rays require a shelter but also a bat signal to call together an assemblage of disillusioned music fans who are yearning for a sound that is even remotely practiced. As evidenced by Die Fast, Life Kills, and a rough preview of new material that was recently posted on their Facebook page, Stark and Gates are close to perfecting a sound. Catch them now and save yourself from another night of cursing the current musical forecast.