Before I could write a word about it, something kept drawing me back to Sylva Kayâs debut LP, Undercut. It wasnât necessarily the songs, although there are several outstanding moments. It was more like the energy of the album was somehow special. Perhaps there was a sense of urgency. But along with the urgency came this scattered feeling, as if Kayâs stated influences â the Breeders, Dinosaur, and Sugar, along with English rock and shoegaze â were all jostling for position at the same time, with none gaining the edge for too long. This sends Undercut hurtling headlong through sonic space.
Kayâs sprawling opener âDumpstarâ starts and stops with the epic feel of an E Street Band track, but it vacillates between college rock and more poppy â90s flavor. Things take a left turn with the Sonic Youth-esque guitar jamming and wailed vocals of âGreen Surâ and the still more dissonant âWeep,â and from here the album takes on a different tone for awhile, more fuzzed-out, English, and somehow looser. âCity Lightsâ splits the difference, while the acoustic âAdmissionsâ breezily traverses more poppy territory.
Kay typically tours solo with a drum machine, and seems to have done most all the work in the studio. The fledgling Indianna labelâs promo materials claim that âeach time Kay picks up an instrument it becomes somehow imbued with a distinct voice.â This is the double-edged sword that Kay wields: it makes for many sometimes chaotic voices, but also makes her songwriting voice very exciting and intriguing. I venture to say that itâs good to have such a weapon.