California Black Vows


California Black Vows, the new Clay Rendering full length, chronicles the group's move away from the comfort zone straight into the dark heart of the west. Since their last album, Snowthorn (HOS 433CD/LP, 2015) the band relocated from the suburbs of the Midwest to the sinister shine of Los Angeles. The cover's icicle is the last remnant of their time in familiar surroundings. More change was to follow; a duo for most of its existence, Clay Rendering's core of Mike and Tara Connelly chose to invite two allies into their closed circle: Sera Timms of Black Mare on bass and Joe Potts of Sollilja on drums. The warning bell sounded with their inclusion on Vatican Shadow's Berghain (OSTGUT 119LP, 2019) mix. A couple of EPs surfaced since the last full length, but the band has spent most of that time molding the new four-piece incarnation from the ground up and discovering the sounds and directions that new blood brings, while also acclimating to their new surreal setting. The result is a dimly-lit journey into the wild nightside, where nothing is for sure, a hypnotic trek into the center of Clay Rendering's unique brand of gloom rock commences. The album reveals itself slowly for the first minutes of "Blood Into Wine", until the refrain opens wide and dives headlong into the deep -- it's a statement of intent. From there, things rev up with uncertainty and a nervous edge. Tara takes on more vocals than previous records, haunting the nocturnal ocean with "Once In The Well," "Black Vows," and "Take Hold." Strangers come and go and dance and die in "We Wait." Questions remain unanswered in "Don't Understand You." With Dylan Neal (Thief) on production duties, Clay Rendering have delivered their fullest and most fleshed-out album to date. The immediacy of the recording gives the feel that these songs are taking shape as one hears them. Guitars melt over the keyboards and synths throughout the proceedings. The record is filled with a noir life force that transitions back and forth from desperate wails to moonlit hymns. The vocals are clearer and more direct than ever, letting one know exactly where Clay Rendering stands. The bass provides the heartbeat of the mission, the drums ensure everything lands in its place.