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RYAT “Totem” | Brainfeeder

RYAT might be the closest vocalist, producer and multi-instrumentalist to capture the same type of sound as the illustrious Björk. Experimental yet mature in scope and dashing with an uncompromisable velocity in various ranges of genres, RYAT’s inclusion into the Brainfeeder family is a perfect fit for an artist of this magnitude in sonic depth. Originally from Philadelphia and now residing in the epicenter of the Brainfeeder family, Los Angeles, her debut album Totem is surely going to shock the world. Processed into states I have never experienced attach to metamorphosis of other worldly sounds in a swirl around syncopated and frenetic tightly placed percussion. The production and vocal work is masterful and breathes in a way that I can’t help but think of one of the pioneers of modern experimental electronic music, Björk.

There’s no denying how well crafted Totem resonates in the captivating aura that has made experimental electronica something that thrives so expansively in this age. Totem shape shifts in ways I never thought were possible. It is progressive electronic music to me and the dawning of a new conquest where classical overtones and experimentalism are just as refined and coalesced as hard hitting beats and futuristic electronica synth in Totem. RYAT’s vocal approach is what really makes Totem something I want to hear more and more the few weeks I have spent with it. The elegance in her tonality pours through every track with lush piano, violin, synth, guitar, heavy kick drums and enraptured overtones of so many types that could set the stage for the largest of film. She has a huge range in her vocal abilities and utilizes this range to the fullest degree. You can’t help but marvel at how far she can transition from octaves while giving special attention to the sections that include effects.

Totem begins with “Windcurve”, a song melting with a magical essence that lands down instead of rising up with its wonderfully out of body type of intro. Her vocals are saturated deeply into the mix in the beginning with a roaming picture frame of shapes and colors. It feels ominous when she layers her vocals and positions them into the background of the mix. This album as a whole relies on the 3-d spectrum of where everything is placed just as much as it becomes a statement of percussion heavy and captivating melody work. Harp dances all over the mix, with beautiful layers that come out of nowhere. It’s a really adventurous sound that begins the album on a hypnotic note. It gives me a moment where I ask myself is this something that is real or am I hearing things? The song is an experimentation and masterful display of rhythm and percussion foundations, dispersing in and out of tempo, syncopated shifts and a breaking of all confinement at the snap of a finger. The song transgresses into a faster tempo in a way I have never heard, making the shift as organic as possible inside of the futuristic world it rests its roots at.

A song like “Invisibly Ours” is a piece that graces upon an innocent and softer approach than most of the rest of Totem. Guitar shimmers in repetition from a gently played arrangement of plucks on the guitar. A rich guitar sheeted over it rises like that of a new feeling never felt before. It’s all the small things that count in life and RYAT couldn’t have emphasized that point more with this song and every other. RYAT sings her heart out with “Invisibly Ours” as the percussion-less and enriched state becomes ever so heavenly. The latter half of this song becomes more pronounced and includes percussion that expands measure after measure. It’s one of those songs that I can’t get enough and marvel at every time I hear it. “Humnmingbird is constructed much in the same as way as “Invisibly Ours”, building without percussion and than ending with an anthem like power rush of drums that blasts the dynamic range of the song miles away from where it  once was.

“Owl” is a track that displays an infinite transition of percussive and harmonic ideas. It’s fascinating to hear the complex usage of tones all wrapping around the odd time signature this track presents, another element to the entirety of this record that pushes it over the edge in complexity and beauty. Sound bends and becomes obtuse in shape, leaving a trail unrecognizable from the cross cutting of ideas and patterns. Small synth sections are added in as bridges to the emotional shifts of dynamics. RYAT enters with a vocal inflection in this song that is as surreal as it is soulful and keeps the song aligned with the break beat percussion that shifts constantly. It’s hard to believe as many ideas are conveyed as they are in this song with the same sentiment in tone carried from beginning to end. The ending dissolves without the rhythm present and is as big as any section on the album.

It feels like guitar has been one instrument that has been utilized the least in the construction of experimental electronica in the 21st age and RYAT’s Totem adds guitar in the most sophisticated and balanced way. The song “Footless” leaves the last minute with the arrival of a complex and stunning guitar part that is aligned with synth and extra guitar laced in just as much effects as the main section. It’s a really different sound than what has been coming out and is a refreshing reminder that all instruments can have a place in this ongoing saga of experimental electronic music.

The gusto and vibrato on the song “Object Mob” is something that comes at you with so much velocity and weight that it really pushes the album into a more raw and veracious state. The percussion is simply incredible with a highly gifted resemblance of a jazz drummers style. There is an added energy, flare and heated state that lives in this song that made me look at the scope of who RYAT is as a musician completely different. The main synth melody is what really brings me in, sounding like multiple baritone sax  players going to town, laying down very similar lines. As the most explosive piece on the album, it captures a beauty in the state of adventure and exploration with up beat energy present rarely seen.

RYAT’s Totem will surely fill top list mentions this year, no doubt about that. I really feel Totem is something of the future and is a record that boldly raises the bar in the Brainfeeder catalog. Definitely an album we highly recommend from Sound Colour Vibration.

-Erik Otis

Order RYAT’s Totem on Brainfeeder

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