In an unlikely but majestic collaboration with the London Contemporary Orchestra at London’s famed Royal Albert Hall, RY X (Ryan Cuming) brought his ethereal melodies to life via a hauntingly beautiful live album. Amrit Virdi delves beneath the brass and strings to reveal the ideal antidote to glacial lockdown evenings.
Australian singer-songwriter RY X excels at combining his remarkable and emotive lyricism with captivating orchestral musicality in his studio albums Dawn (2016) and Unfurl (2019), and the input from the London Contemporary Orchestra in this live rendition of his immersive discography showcases his work at its finest. Upon the first listen, it's impossible not to be entranced by the way Cuming’s soft vocals seamlessly mingle with the string elements and feel anything but entirely at one with the music as the album flawlessly flows from track to track.
Whilst the record truly is an immersive orchestral experience, opening with a drawn-out instrumental in Sweat, Cuming’s song-writing should not be overlooked. The simple yet captivating lyricism of The Water and the dense metaphorical world of Howling, accompanied by a gradual string crescendo and joyous jeers from the crowd, are standout moments of the album. Judging by their live response, it seems as if Cuming really knows how to captivate an audience; the hypnotic quality of his music making for a spellbinding listen, both in his live and studio works.
‘From brass and strings to horns and woodwind, instrumentation in all of its forms is given the utmost respect.’
Whilst the majority of the album uses strings and techno synth to its advantage, the inclusion of piano tones on Body Sun are a welcomed addition; mingling gloriously with Cuming’s vocals as he pines for an all-consuming love. Even without being at the iconic London venue in person, RY X’s vocals teamed with the incredibly talented London Contemporary Orchestra use the boundary-breaking power of music to wholeheartedly capture their listeners’ attention.
Sections of the album devoted solely to the marvelous, melancholic work of the London Contemporary Orchestra feel like you’re being transported to another world, and are the definition of the power that music can possess. From brass and strings to horns and woodwind, instrumentation in all of its forms is given the utmost respect that it deserves on tracks like Solace (Ambient), Clasp (Ambient), and Plume (Ambient). The admiration from the crowd to hold back their cheers and simply take in the sonic masterpiece in front of them should also be noted, and once again emphasize the mesmerizing sentiment of the record.
With RY X famed for his track Berlin, this track, along with the rest of the album, can be taken as demonstrations of the vast vocal ability of the Australian. Despite this being a live album, the vocals sound near identical to the studio renditions, whilst added string accompaniment to formerly guitar-led tracks add another layer of depth to the live listening experience.
Closing the album with another well-known track, Only, Cuming drives the performance with a lone guitar. Accompanied once more by his descriptive and emotive lyricism, an air of melancholy made even more shattering by the graduated string backing washes over the listener. Once the 5 minutes and 37 seconds of the track are over, it's impossible to not be left wanting more from this incredible pairing. To me, this album is an example of music in its very richest and rawest form, and I see a bright future ahead for RY X as he continues to take live music to another level.
Written by: Amrit Virdi
Edited by: Olivia Stock