Having a predisposition toward dissecting presumed meanings and searching for symbolism and a greater underlying theme in most things, when I first saw Au.Ra’s name, I couldn’t help but question what the period in the middle was all about. Was it merely used as an aesthetic accentuation of the numerological symmetry of the letters in the name? Or is its presence serving as a median between the four letters, the result of another band already sharing the moniker, and the “Au” was then separated from the “Ra” simply as a means to establish this particular band named Aura apart from the other band? Or could it even be a way to establish this project as hailing from Australia (AU)? My final observation regarding this seemingly intentional and demarcating punctuation mark was also that “Au” on the periodic table is the abbreviation for gold. Whatever the actual purpose this dot serves, while the name still encapsulates an impression of slight ambiguity, Australia’s Au.Ra has undoubtedly tapped into a very specific and consistent vibe in Jane’s Lament, which was released by the impressive young post-punk imprint Felte in March of 2015. Whether it’s coincidental or not, their tone is one where much of the warmth that is often mentally associated with gold, both in pigment as well as when considering it in relation to an aura, can be felt.
My initial impression was that Jane’s Lament would be a lot more heavy in a psychedelic direction. These songs do possess a level of weightlessness, experimentation, and spacey atmospheres, but it is a lot more rock and pop-savvy than I had somehow anticipated. The parts that are psychedelic are much more reminiscent of psych rock’s softer side rather than the heavier or experimental varieties. Regardless, while I would consider their sound being more along the lines of the Byrds, there are certainly songs, such as two noise tracks entitled “Juki” and “Width,” that call to mind some of the more accentuated, extreme variations of the genre (Hawkwind comes to mind, of course).
Regarding the rock and pop facets, Jane’s Lament is saturated with plenty of dream pop, shoegaze, and indie pop sensibilities. The first track, “Morning,” starts off right away with a simple 4:4 rock beat for a short while before heavily distorted, plucked sonic ripples trickle in, followed by a steady ebb and flow of waves of more ethereal guitar, then a simple, repetitive bass line joins in adding a rich amount of drive and punch, as various guitar leads tie it all together perfectly. The same type of bass and heavy emphasis on incorporating shoegaze effects and distortion here is also found later on in “Spare the Thought,” which is my second-favorite track on this album. There are so many echoes and layers, plenty of reverb, synth tracks, and interesting movements found here that it’s a true pleasure to listen to, especially considering the dream-pop melodies and cadence found in Tim Jenkins’ vocals. His voice on this album are exactly what you would expect, provided the aforementioned genre labels. It is both gentle and subdued, sung as if by a person whose thoughts were steeped in a distant memory, which goes well with everything else they’re doing. Vocals such as this paired with the solid songwriting and numerous layers of primarily simple instrumentation make these two songs notably and nicely stand out from the others.
While I can’t say Jane’s Lament is a perfect album, I do appreciate the fact that Au.Ra makes bands such as Ride, Slowdive, and the earlier material of the Durutti Column come to mind. With two shorter songs that are strictly psychedelic noise tracks and the two songs “You’re on My Mind” and “Ease” failing to impress me as there’s something lackluster and watered down in contrast to everything else going on in this record, in a traditionally musical sense, approximately only half of the album is fully appealing. With that being said, I do hope they continue making music while sailing the shoegaze sea (since that is what they do best), because while this band doesn’t strike me as being comprised of inexperienced musicians in the slightest, there is still something missing here as a whole which feels on the verge of being filled with the help of a little more time and maturation. All things considered, coincidentally or not, Australia’s Au.Ra projects the sort of warmth you’d assume would resonate from their chosen title. Provided this, if any of the aforementioned styles appeal to you, I would say this album is worth your time.
04) You’re on My Mind
06) Spare the Thought
07) Talk Show