Peeking through last week’s hype over the new releases from James Blake, Chance the Rapper, and Radiohead, was RY X’s debut record on Infectious/BMG.
After the success of his EP, expectations were high for a long-player, however Ry’s sound has since departed from the minimalism and subtlety of emotion that initially separated his music so much from the rest of the scene.
Dawn eases the listener in with a slow and droning string intro which echoes the textures of Keaton Henson’s Romantic Works, the soothing effects of which are immediately subverted by a firm sine bass riff in ‘Shortline’. Then Ry’s whisper comes in, floating gently atop the churning depths of piano, percussion and strings.
[include_post id=”414351″]While the tension is undeniable, ‘Shortline’ lacks the raw frustration of its EP version, favouring Ry’s ghostly vocals over fuzzed-up guitar. This was all his artful intention however, as the whole album seems to lack climax, catharsis enough for its unrelenting suspense.
Lyrically, Dawn tours the passions of human connection, faintly drawing towards an overarching sense of longing: “Tell me I’m not going home/and I’ll stop waiting by the phone,” Ry wails on ‘Berlin’, the homesick lament that marks the middle of the tracklist. ‘Berlin’, unlike ‘Shortline’, is ostensibly the same as the EP version, retaining the tenderness of vocal performance that makes it such an impressive song.
While the instrumentation of the record is interesting (with such examples as the bowed strings of ‘Haste’ sitting atop a wobble bass synth with nothing in-between), it’s Ry’s vocals which have the most impact. He adheres to a distant, haunting tone throughout the record, drawing focus more to the lyrics which, though occasionally muffled, bare his emotions quite clearly.
At the end of ‘Lean’, the final track, Ry nearly seems in denial when he repeats “to come back” to himself, over and over. Whether he’s pining for a lost lover or dreaming of his home, Ry is separated from something he loves, and the record never fully sees him find his way back to it.
While it is a shame not to hear quite the same vocal variety and skill as in the EP, Dawn is ultimately a well-structured, tender record, the tense restraint of which illustrates expertly the realities of love and longing.