“We’ll grow together.” is the first quote that springs to mind from my evening with RY X. I know, deep stuff. But RY X may well know his stuff about progression. He’s travelled along a sporadic road of labels, bands and sounds throughout his career, illustrating this growth through the subdued sound of his melancholic and delightfully humble new album Dawn.
After walking through a cold drizzle beforehand, a cosy theatre in the Leeds College of Music was a welcome sight. However, unexpectedly – and almost annoyingly – the venue was seating only, and as I took this passive place for the evening my eyes glazed over the vast array of electronic equipment on display. Leads and cables unnervingly littered the whole stage, and I wondered why the Australian singer/songwriter needed to bring this amount of wire from halfway across the world. Yet my doubts disappeared with the lights. The pulsating electronic beat of the track ‘Lean’ began, and RY X approached the stage with a sense of reservation. His two band members took up positions on drums, keyboards, and of course the plethora of technology, outnumbering the audience in its sprawl.
The modest size of the crowd was clearly recognised by RY X, as he described the venue as the “most intimate” of the tour. However, through the infectious percussion concocted by the band, the intimate nature of the room became a blessing. Contained and enclosed, the well-orchestrated trio flourished. This certainly oozed from the track ‘Sweat’, as the harmonies of electronica and vocals merged into a chilling three and a half minutes that left the crowd in awe. His intense yet effortless voice, coupled with the reservation of his stage presence, reminded me of artists such as the incredible Matt Corby. Sometimes these artists like to let their raw vocals do the talking. Sometimes that’s all that’s needed.
Less is more, then – or is it? In RY X’s world, sometimes more is less. The original proverb seemed to be thrown out of the window and blurred by the Australian aficionado. The abundant electronic equipment surprisingly resulted in a stripped back, ethereal sound. This ironic balancing act produced melodic easy listening, a seemingly effortless surface created by incredibly complex electronic manipulation. For example, his acclaimed single ‘Berlin’ perfectly exemplifies the almost organic nature of acoustic folk, yet it was produced by being pushed through a tunnel of electronics from the roots of the tech-savvy musicians.
Key single ‘Only’ concluded the evening, portraying the crucial element that all the previous tracks delivered; delicacy. Well-considered lyrics echoed the sensitive strumming and left the crowd in a sombre state of silence. Despite my reluctance to pull up a chair to begin with, the babble of electronic sound alongside reverb-infused guitar and intense percussion finalised with a tantalisingly good tenor left the whole audience glued to their seats.By Max Haydon