Over the past few years, there has been no shortage of musicians whose work combines ambient and electronic sounds to craft intricate and moving instrumental pieces.
Following in the footsteps of acts like Grouper, Baths, Star Slinger, and Mister Lies, Sam Ray has composed a lovely and haunting record under the moniker of Ricky Eat Acid.
Three Love Songs isn’t the first release from this musician, but it is the one that has garnered the most attention for the artist thus far, including tour dates opening for popular indie R&B act Rhye. There’s good reason for that, as the album is a restrained and calming meditation, and a journey through melancholy and loss.
Given the album title, one might assume a certain kind of tenderness to these tracks, and that wouldn’t be too far off. Ray’s pieces feel personal, as if the listener is eavesdropping on his private thoughts even though often nothing is actually being said.
Lush synths swell up for expansive gestures, especially on tracks like “In Rural Virginia”, which features samples of a preacher sermonizing that echoes sentiments of late ‘90s Godspeed You! Black Emperor.
When the static gives way to the subtle keys of “inside your house; it will swallow us too”, it makes for a sonically jarring yet engrossing moment on an album filled with them.
Much of the first half of the record is filled with soft blips and electronics that give way to the ambient and keyboard-heavy rhythm that comes after. Part of what makes Three Love Songs so engrossing is the shifts in styles, as Ray can resemble the experimental loops of The Caretaker mere moments before bringing in R&B vocals and a steady, throbbing beat as he does on “It will draw me over to it like it always does.”
In what might be the album’s shining moment, he uses a spliced up sample of a Youtube cover of “Take Care” by Drake on “In My Dreams We’re Almost Touching” for the album’s highlight. The repetition creates a hypnotic pulse as the beat pours in, making it the only track on the album that could fit in well on the dance floor.
The album segues back into a restrained, melancholy note as it winds down, especially on the impeccably gorgeous “God puts us all in the swimming pool.” Ray is able to invoke heartbreaking memories as the album fades.
Three Love Songs is such a sublime mixture of beauty and sadness that it serves as a perfect soundtrack for the dreams you don’t want to wake up from because they’re better than reality. It is a lonely and affecting piece of work that could easily be one of the strongest releases of 2014 thus far.
Who: Ricky Eat Acid
Album: Three Love Songs
Label: Orchid Tapes
Songs To Download: "In my dreams we’re almost touching," "God puts us all in the swimming pool" and "Inside your house; it will swallow us too"