If you look up the videos that RY X (aka Ry Cuming) has recently uploaded to YouTube, you’ll notice that several of them include images of bodies draped in various colors of windswept cloth. These images—very obviously connected to the title of RY X’s sophomore LP, Unfurl—seem to aspire towards the ethereal, a term that also works well to describe the aesthetic that Cuming intends for his music as a whole.

If you take any individual song from Unfurl, you can almost trick yourself into believing that RY X achieves the celestial elegance that is his aim. Check out “The Water,” for instance. The track opens with a repeated progression of piano chords, which continues under Cuming’s hazy falsetto vocals. After the first iteration of the chorus, a throbbing bass line enters the mix, along with some light handclap percussion. Later in the song, after the chorus is repeated, a chirping synth pattern also appears, and the sounds exquisitely layer onto one another in perfect, sunlit harmony as the song enters its bridge and then fades away.

But if you listen to Unfurl as a whole, you begin to notice that Cuming relies on the same handful of tricks to craft each of these 13 songs and their ethereal qualities start to fall apart. Each track works almost exactly like “The Water”: it begins with a single instrument, then Cuming’s voice gently arrives and other sounds materialize to politely combine with the minimal arrangement from the song’s start. In addition, RY X follows a tired routine with his falsetto, especially when he gets to each song’s chorus. This involves arcing his voice to its highest and loudest in the early or middle parts of a phrase and then fading off by phrase’s end. “My body sun,” he sings on “Body Sun,” heavy emphasis on the first syllable of “body.” “Ayayayaya,” he croons on “YaYaYa,” extra weight on the second “ya.”

As you can tell from those excerpts, the album’s lyrics veer towards the vague or the meaningless. Words like “heaven,” “God” and “open” appear again and again, in various configurations. These match nicely with the album’s spiritual ambitions but in the most vanilla way possible. “Go on, get heaven/ You are on my mind,” RY X intones on “Mallorca,” perhaps in order to evoke a stock image of “beach vacation” or “nice day.”

This is at the opposite end of the spectrum from those falsetto-wielding artists—such as Thom Yorke, Moses Sumney and Bon Iver—willing to explore a wide variety of textures and specific experiences. Cuming himself sounds more adventurous in his work with The Acid, a quartet that also includes DJ-producer Adam Freeland, singer-songwriter Jens Kuross and producer-professor Steve Nalepa. The Bomb, their soundtrack for a 2017 film about nuclear weapons, dots its sonic canvas with moody, sometimes discordant electro that’s more effectively ethereal because of its connections to a tangible subject.

Unfurl is, in the end, an aggressively pleasant album. There’s no denying that these songs sound nice, but they’re committed to a version of delicate bliss that’s disappointingly one-size-fits-all.

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