By Emily DiAlbert, Staff Writer
Key Tracks: “two_beautiful ways of moving_your_hands”
A lot can happen in four years. In the amount of time that it takes a college student to graduate with a bachelor’s, a president to complete a full term or a country to plan the Olympic Games, for example, Sam Ray, the mastermind behind solo project Ricky Eat Acid, spent countless hours fine-tuning his latest release, am i happy, singing_. The album was first drafted in just a few days during the summer of 2014. Ray wrote on his Bandcamp that he was initially going to release it right away, almost four years ago, but was advised to hold onto it. The wonderland of dreamy, electronic music that was produced because of the years-long effort made the wait for the three-track release more than worth it.
am i happy, singing_ is an arresting detour from REA’s typical discography. Far different from his some of his other releases, including 2014’s cherished mix, Three Love Songs (which was released just months before this new album was written), the three-track album works as a cohesive unit with each song playing into (or working off of) another in synchronous harmony. It demands an open ear, but it’s not difficult to give one.
“‘sitting in a diner’”, the opener, puts one in front of a glitching OG Nintendo. Overlapping and nuanced staccato blips serve as the baseline for a seven-minute-long journey through a difficult level of a Pacman-esque game that’s complete with a handheld joystick. As you travel further through the game’s level, REA adds different, singing components that bubble up and burst in your ears as you get closer and closer to passing. The spurting 808s eventually fizzle out, marking the transition to the middle track.
“two_beautiful ways of moving_your_hands” offers a completely different sound than its predecessor. A soothing orchestral melody confidently aligns with a deep baseline at the beginning of the song, only to begin spurting and stuttering with the addition of echoing electronic components. As you immerse yourself in the track, you’ll find yourself completely captivated by its turning gears. You’re instantly snapped back into reality halfway through, however, when the track comes to an abrupt halt with a brief moment of silence. After the break, the music returns at full-force with flowering remixed violin melodies. At its finale, strings punch in and out as the baseline grows louder only to come to another snap ending.
“am i happy, singing” serves as the album’s glorious, all-encompassing, 17-minute-long consummation. Full of sparkling synth crescendos, light piano work and rising hums, the track is like a musical picture of an early-morning sunrise on a spring day.
am i happy, singing is a well-oiled machine, effortlessly combining excerpts of distinct chirps, blips, tweets and melodies into a gorgeous electronic serenade, and the years of work REA put into tweaking the album to perfection are more than evident. This album is more than just a mix of different works; it’s a powerful musical soliloquy that one shouldn’t, and wouldn’t want to, ignore.