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Though all three members of Empress were also in Boyracer, the similarity ends there. Where Boyracer was frenzied and urgent, Empress is sedate and lulling. While Boyracer was a riotous downtown drag race, Empress is a reflective walk down a lonely country road. Singer Nicola's achingly gorgeous vocals simultaneously soothe and unsettle, while Stewart and Matty's lovely slowcore drones gently buoy up her wistful vocals. The trio smartly employs guitar, bass, drums, electronics and ambient sounds to create their shimmering musical sketches. The haunting "All We've Seen" is highlighted by the sound of water -- perhaps in a shower, perhaps on pavement -- and after the initial shock wears off, the sounds become an integral part of the song's rhythm.

In 1999, Petaluma-based Pehr Records released the Empress CD, which compiles the band's now out-of-print debut CD and seven-inch EP (both were self-titled and originally released on 555 Recordings). 555 also released a second EP, Homeward Sounds, which was not included on the Pehr release. The featured "Planless," which originally appeared on the debut LP, is a gorgeous and heartbreaking love song. Sparse, beautiful instrumentation perfectly complements Nicola's whispery sweet vocals. Close your eyes, put on your headphones, and prepare to get shivers down your spine.

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