Search The Line of Best Fit
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Blood Moon is an immersive yet stifled experience from RY X

"Blood Moon"

RY X Blood Moon
17 June 2022, 17:23 Written by Asher White
It’s hard to place exactly when the ‘softboi’ materialized into our greater pop culture, but the past five years or so have seen a boom in a sort of gloomy, tenderhearted archetype of masculinity: as preoccupied with the woes of life as he is vying for a debauched romance.

Consequently, the genre within which RY X’s new album Blood Moon falls – 'chill lofi beats to weep/get laid to', we’ll call it – has no poverty of entries.

RY X has always preferred to underscore his acoustic compositions with deep, languid drones (take, for example, the low siren that blares in the distance of 2016’s “Salt”), and his fixation on atmosphere is among his greatest strengths. It brings his folk songs into wider vistas, more expansive territory. His sound has increased in textural complexity, and on Blood Moon, his interest in other forms – ambient, techno, trip-hop – is more pronounced than ever.

Blood Moon is unfailingly sumptuous. Gorgeous clouds of synth hover above supple, muted percussion. The production is precise and deliberate: each piano note twinkles just so, each beat rustles elegantly through the mix. On “A Thousand Knives,” a guitar figure circles above a few spare kick drums for a few minutes before the entire thing spirals into a dazzling, odd-metered conclusion. The rich palette and focus on rhythm place Blood Moon closer towards James Blake’s early-2010s electronic experiments, or even the ambient techno of Caribou or The Field, over any singer-songwriter.

However, production does not a masterpiece make, and it doesn’t take long for Blood Moon’s primary maneuver – a hazy, glowing verse followed by a profound, cinematic lift-off into the ether – to grow fatiguing. Granted, it’s an often spectacular trick, most satisfyingly used on late-album slow-burner “Come Back.” But such tight focus on this singular register can be oppressive without groundedness or humor, and the nearly hour-length album can often feel like a series of Nissan commercial soundtracks.

Additionally, Blood Moon has a quick shelf-life in part because the sound it commits to, while superbly listenable, isn’t particularly revolutionary. The hushed, featherlight vocals, cavernous reverb, subterranean bass drum, gauzy synths, jazzy cymbals, and aquatic guitar are all relics from an era of lush, exploratory R&B that tapered off around 2013. RY X’s execution is impressive – the stacked falsetto on “Colorblind” would make Bon Iver blush, and the riveting “Borderline” imagines Hozier produced by Four Tet – but the vision is too familiar. Even RY X’s name itself seems to be a portmanteau of his clearest reference points – Canadian lotharios Rhye and English dream-pop visionaries The xx.

At worst, Blood Moon lapses into sleek anonymity. It promises as appealingly sultry aura, but the album lacks the levity and sparseness that kept RY X’s influences so thrilling. It’s noticeable that the points of deviation are Blood Moon’s most transcendent: the gauzy, near-ambient first half of “All in Words,” and the metallic jog of “Dark Room Dancing.”

RY X has an undeniably virtuosic touch with the type of rainy-drive-home song that we keep on repeat in our darker moments. On Blood Moon, he does the work of hitting replay for us, keeping this luxurious sorrowful hymn on loop for 55 melancholy minutes.

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