There’s been no shortage, in recent years, of singer- songwriters who want to spin narrative about how isolation helped them produce their best work; ever since Bon Iver the
idea of the log cabin in the wilderness has become cliched. Similarly, electronic records that wrap a core of emotional vulnerability up in soft synths and gentle effects have also been in plentiful supply. California-via-Australia’s RY X, however, has been touting this approach since before it was cool. Similarly, electronic records that wrap a core of emotional vulnerability up in soft synths and gentle effects have also been in plentiful supply; the likes of How to Dress Well and Frank Ocean, amongst plenty of others, have seen to that.
This meticulously crafted record is the product of “hibernation and emotional sweat” in a mountainous region north of Los Angeles, and very much a solo affair, despite the fact that Ry has collaborated widely previously and remixed Rihanna at her own request. ‘Unfurl’ plays like a run-off between the two sides of his approach as a writer; the palette is a minimal one, with mellow beats draped with piano, subtle synth work and his handsome, if slight, vocals. There are points at we seem to be following him down a genuinely electronic rabbit hole - ‘Untold’ recalls Burial, and the brooding ‘The Water’ shifts shape constantly - but those moments are offset by much more beige fare elsewhere, like the by-numbers acoustic number ‘YaYaYa’, or the barely-there ‘Foreign Tides’. RY X is a talented guy with a singular vision, but ‘Unfurl’’s title is misleading - it’s a little too tentative to have fully done so.