by Evan Miller
Artist: Ricky Eat Acid
Album: Sun Over Hills EP
I agree with something a friend of mine told me recently: Musical trends are very fascinating, especially in electronic music. We had the vaporwave trend a few years ago (which I’m still loving personally), trap music still going strong, and now the newest hot style in electronic is footwork, which I’m really into. Spawned from the dance it’s named after, the music evolved from juke music into its own style, reflecting the complexity of its dance namesake. Composed of jittery, syncopated drums, quick tempos, and repetitive vocal samples, the music ranges from fairly relaxed sounding to battle-ready (for footwork dancers to compete with). One of the pioneers of this music, DJ Rashad, just recently passed, which has brought a new light onto this burgeoning electronic trend. Producers left and right are jumping on to try their hand, including Sam Ray AKA Ricky Eat Acid.
Ray is not typically known for this kind of output, more so for his tape-based ambient music. His latest full-length Three Love Songs was a beautiful, sprawling collection of cheap keyboards, pianos, tape hiss, and field recordings, but when he started playing live shows, he realized that “though it’s phenomenally transcendent in certain situations, ambient/drone music is not particularly fun to play for audiences, no matter how much you ‘sell it’.” So in an effort to bring something new forward, and become more confident in making different music, he’s released the Sun Over Hills EP, which has Ray dropping the drones for drums and danceability, but not leaving his homespun feel behind.
Ray is no stranger to using vocal samples (his last album included a sample of a Drake cover), so the first track of this EP sounds pretty characteristic, with the chopped vocals and a tape-warped piano loop. The light percussion gives no warning to the immediate jump into the next track, “’angels’”. This track is much more aggressive, with skittering drums and even some distorted glass-breaking sounds for punctuation. The synths are uneasy, never quite sounding harmonious, and jabbing and floating in and out as the drums push you forward like a cart in a dark tunnel. The titular track puts its weight on another vocal sample (a Slim Thug line from a Mike Jones track), and its bubbly synths and swirling drum loops easily make this the most upbeat track (and my favorite). The track shoots off and only lets up for a couple spare moments before flying right back into the fray; it’s exhilarating. Like going to a house show (the music, not the place), the next track “this goes out to…” is a cool down. The fade-outs throughout the track almost make it seem like a set of vignettes strung together, and the first batch of chords and pulsing cymbal washes give me flashbacks of DJ Rashad’s “Feelin.” The vocal samples are much more melodic and subdued, and a welcome atmosphere after the full-speed-ahead force of the previous track. The final track on this 16-minute EP brings back the urgent and unsettled vibe of ‘angels’ at first, and then drops out to become the most serene portion of the EP since the beginning, with acoustic guitar plucking away in the background behind a chime-like synth loop. The vocal sample here floats its way through the end of the track, bringing a calm ending to rollercoaster of an EP.
For a surprise release, this thing really is outstanding, and for someone who says they don’t really quite know what they’re doing, Ray obviously has a feel for what sounds good, and shows he can make dance music just as well as he can make more “serious” music. With Sun Over Hills, Ray takes his newfound influences and successfully puts his own stylistic spin on them; you can hear bits of Rashad and Traxman and DJ Spinn, but this is still very obviously a Ricky Eat Acid release. I would absolutely pay to see him do a DJ set of this kind of stuff, and I hope that something like that will be on the horizon for him soon.