Guitarist/vocalist Evan Patterson originally formed Jaye Jayle as a minimalist, solo antidote to his main band, the bone-crushing Louisville post-hardcore act Young Widows. Now a quartet augmented by bass, drums, and keyboards, Patterson’s group currently hews closer to the shades-tightly-drawn cinematic stylings of Nick Cave and Mark Lanegan.
Produced by David Lynch’s long-time music supervisor, Dean Hurley, Jaye Jayle’s latest full-length, No Trail And Other Unholy Paths, starts with an instrumental aperitif: “No Trail (Path One)” is driven by overlapping piano (and, later, keyboard) ostinatos that tumble together as if in a clothes dryer. Up next is the hypnotic, dirge-like “No Trail (Path Two).” This song introduces Patterson’s baritone, as stark as spilled black ink pooling on paper, before Emma Ruth Rundle joins in to add even more shade to the vocal fray. “What took you so long?” she whispers, in a tone that’s both conspiratorial and frightened.
The rest of No Trail And Other Unholy Paths follows the same blueprint of mesmerizing unease. Minor-key guitars add macabre heft to insistent rhythmic pulses, shirred keyboard grooves, and scattered instrumental atmosphere. The clattering backdrop of “Ode To Betsy” echoes that of Bauhaus’ “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”; “Low Again Street” is bookended by foggy, diffracted saxophone; and “As Soon As Night” boasts recurring whirring sounds that resemble a power drill.
The album’s emotional and musical highlight, however, is the tension-filled “Marry Us.” Another example of fine vocal interplay between Patterson and Rundle, who are a couple in real life, it’s a searing psychedelic sprawl with well-placed percussion (i.e., raindrop-like beats, devious tambourine shakes) and lyrics smoldering with desire. “Marry us / We don’t need anyone / We don’t need family / Just marry us, now,” Patterson demands. The desperation in his voice increases as he urges that the deed be done “quickly, quickly, quickly, quickly”—words spoken just as loud, crashing guitars surge, as if they’re placing a firm exclamation mark on his exhortation. As this song underscores, No Trail And Other Unholy Paths is a bold step forward for Jaye Jayle, an album that sears the heart without even trying.