ALBUM REVIEW: EPisodes by Bryanna Rain

Bryanna Rain is an author and singer/songwriter from Richmond, VA. Bryanna is an artist who has developed her career through the DIY internet scene, which allows artists to grow organically without needing a vast budget. She released her debut EP, Blameless, through Kounterfeit Records to great acclaim when she was just thirteen. She also performed background vocals on Celadon Candy’s cc:EP and has developed a considerable proficiency and expertise in music production over the years. In 2021, Bryanna released the three track EP Blaming Eternia (which I reviewed very favourably, read here) and all the songs also appear on this, her debut album release for her record label Exquisite Noise.

The album consists of eight tracks, opening with the title track from last year’s EP. Blaming Eternia is a wild and instantly striking song, starting with an enigmatic intro before breaking out into a punchy pop/dance beat and a brooding bassline. Bryanna’s voice is captivating, as distinctive as any global female pop star and with as large a range. Aside from tone and technique, there’s also a quirky side to her musical persona that brought to mind someone like Charlie XCX, another female artist who does the pop thing with a certain twist. This stretches into the unpredictable lyrics, with ear catching lines such as “You wouldn’t be so naked without your golden crown....”. A great album opener.

All these qualities continue into the wonderful Phosphene, Dreaming. It’s a majestic mid paced synth pop track that brought to mind Carpenter Brit’s classic remix of Gunship’s Tech Noir, with its stately groove and tumbling synth toms. That’s where any similarity ends, however; it’s a mesmeric and compelling piece of pop, Bryanna weaving a memorable web of melody over a colourful 80’s style synth-heavy backdrop. The lyrics are oblique and almost psychedelic: “I close my eyes and try colours on…outer space is where I belong...”. At its emotional core, though, is a deep longing for love: “Cradle me and hold me, rock me like a baby...”. Whatever it’s about, it’s undoubtedly one of the album’s finest moments.

The quirky, avant garde side to her artistry is even more evident on third track, Ferretheads. Built around some “interesting” spoken word samples both human and computerised, it is underpinned by a restless swirl of blazing synths and frenetic beats. While probably disorienting to a newcomer, this kind of original, experimental approach is most welcome in a pop culture that has become so stale and predictable.

Fourth track Satellite Strings is a return to more mainstream fare, a genuinely beautiful and touching cover of Tasmin Archer’s no. 1 hit Sleeping Satellite, which also appeared on the Blaming Eternia EP. This song is a particularly good showcase for Bryanna’s vocal talents and she gives a rich and emotive performance, expressing the deep romanticism in the words with conviction.

The Dirge is another striking and impressive track, a sophisticated synth pop song full of intricate rhythms and instrumental hooks. The heartfelt chorus captures a relationship causing emotional turmoil: “How long you gonna string me along? How come I let you ring my alarm..?”. This becomes a compelling refrain toward the end of the track, making it one of the most moving and memorable songs on EPisodes.

The mood switches radically once more, GhostBaby (Vanishing) a vibrant house track with Bryanna sharing the singing with a male vocalist to good effect. Driving Italian-style house piano underpins a versatile and flamboyant lead vocal from Bryanna, also featuring some lush, layered harmonies. The yin/yang contrast of the female and male vocals give this track an exciting edge, and you can see it becoming popular in the clubs, in particular.

Phosphene, Dancing, as the title suggests, is a reworking of the earlier song Phosphene, Dreaming, with a more dance-oriented sound and production style. It takes the dreamy melancholy of the original melodic material and marries it to an array of interweaving synth lines. Whilst not as effective as the first version, in my opinion, it’s an interesting re-imagining of a very good song.

The closing track Sure Shot is another rollercoaster ride, a left of field electro pop track that lacks discernible lyrics but is nonetheless incredibly catchy. The relentless see-saw vocal melody has a hypnotic effect along with the pulsing synths and thudding, electrifying beat. There’s a real skill in how this track was put together, capturing both Bryanna’s artistic idiosyncrasies and inventiveness as well as her future creative potential.

Overall, this is an impressive and genuinely distinctive debut album from singer/songwriter Bryanna Rain. Leaning most towards electro pop with an inimitable 80’s-inspired style and sound she has developed herself over the years, she can just as easily switch to a mainstream pop song. While a more consistent approach might garner her more success at the more commercial end of the music industry, EPisodes is Bryanna Rain making her mark as a gifted creative artist and is most definitely a name to listen out for in the future.

VERDICT = 8.8 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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