From Singapore and currently living in Austin (Texas), Ras Xix released his self-titled full length albumon May 1 of this year. When listening to the album’s multidimensional and complex sounds, it is sometimes hard to believe that all 11 songs were written, arranged, sung, and produced by Ras Xix, and that he played most of the instruments, except for a surprisingly small number of guest musicians.
Such talent and vision are a refreshing contrast to mass-produced music by more widely known artists. I feel compelled to point out yet again that this is a mostly one-man written, played, sung, and produced album that has the complexity and array usually associated when music is the result of collaborations. No doubt this has to do in part with Ras Xix’s travels around the world; the different experiences and sounds he encountered seem to have trickled into this album, most evidently in its sixth track, “Las Arenas de Cartagena.” The heavy infusion of different sounds and genres adds to the album both in diversity and in one’s appreciation of Ras Xix’s musical ear and skills. Combined with the constant interchanges of slow and fast tempo songs, the album veered within distance of being unsatisfactory. But with some skillful arrangement, it not only takes us to very different places, but gives the listener a sense of happy closure.
Sounding a bit like Jeff Buckley and Jack Johnson, Ras Xix is clearly passionate and gives each track his all. None of them seemed subpar or unworked, even the least creative track of the album, the opening “Weightless with You.” The title of the song is worthy of a boy band love ballad, but is an upbeat rocker sounding a lot like a ’90s hit rock song. The grunge opening of the album is followed by the softer, acoustic sounds of “Nora 5” in which Ras Xix’s crooning lulls you into a languid state in which the listener can appreciate his smooth, passionate vocals.
The beat picks up again on “Over” in which an almost harsh but just right electric guitar is accompanied by an upbeat, dynamic rock rhythm, while “Simulacrum”’s acoustic sounds touch on a jazz, soulful feel. Back into the rock genre, the fourth track, “Consent,” also includes electronic elements that make it into a high pitch, high tempo, and high intensity pop electronic rock experience.
After yet another acoustic-sounding song, “If It’s Gone,” comes the combination of flamenco rhythms with R&B and pop sounds of “Las Arenas de Cartagena,” a unique song that takes you for a walk on a beach on a late, lazy afternoon. It came as no surprise that the song was written on the shores of Boca Grande in Cartagena, Colombia. It also features DJ scratching, which came as an interesting addition to an already good song.
The contrast between the closing notes of “Las Arenas de Cartagena” and the sound of “New Religion” made for the only jarring instead of intriguing transition of the album, which takes a little away from a song that is otherwise an interesting social commentary. The last three songs follow the same pattern of mellow (“Intergalactic Love Affair”), upbeat (“Miss Simon”), and again, mellow (“Machine”). The last lyrics Ras Xix sings on this album seem to encapsulate his belief that, where songs today lack lyrical depth and insight, he intends to step in: “With a word/You can change it/You can spread it and build it all again/A machine of grace/To caress the world in one embrace this far … no further.”
Diverse sounds pulsate together in a strong debut album that features insightful lyrics about life’s happenings and universal concerns. Ras Xix has created a unique sound through the incorporation of rock, progressive rock, acoustic, electronica, and sounds from various parts of the world, a mix of sounds that blend surprisingly well at times. You can stream the album on SoundCloud or on Bandcamp. For more information on Ras Xix, you can check out his official page, his Facebook group and on Twitter.
First published here on Blogcritics.
Originally published on Sahar’s Blog on 21 July 2014.