Raven is melancholic, subtle and casual. As such, it has everything needed to make emotional dynamite. It has to be casual, because if it wasn’t it wouldn’t be believable. And because it’s a believable situation, a believable experience, the music hits home hard.
The first track, “Hope”, is surely a reason to be optimistic, but the cut up samples offer no such dream. In fact, the first thing we hear is a woman, crying:
‘Every morning when I wake up I open my eyes and I see your face and I start crying‘.
It isn’t melodrama when the feelings are true, and it sets the tone. The samples of dialogue hint at urban secrets and slim suspicions that breed perilously close to the surface. Garbled way beyond their original source, the interrupted, manipulated words are broken fences in a street littered with problems; a sorry, suburban soundtrack for 2014.
“In Other Words” blends a hip-hop styled rhythm with a subdued piano progression. The notes cry, drip like rain. Despite the energetic kick of the syncopated beat, the music can’t drag itself out of its lull. Can’t or won’t is subject to interpretation, and it doesn’t really matter – we’re here, no matter the reason. But the track isn’t overwhelmingly bleak despite its struggle. It sobs, much like the lady we first encountered, with sensitivity and soul. In the electronic genre, such sensitivity can often be discarded or forgotten about entirely. Usually, it’s replaced with a quick yet satisfying thrill, but sensitivity is, of course, a very important element in music. When a musician pulls this off, he exposes his heart – it shows that he cares about his music and its subject, and that always deserves extra credit. What’s more, it’s difficult to nail your colors to the mast in the genre of downtempo electronica.
In order to strike a balance, Ukrainian musician Ganju (Denis Yakush) uses his piano along with some lower, sullen synths, sliding the music into a shade of grey. The piano provides a dull, overcast cloud that only disperses towards the end. He chooses the right samples, especially when you consider their relatively short lengths, but he’s also sublime at building his tracks. Yakush manages to take an emotionally-wrought vocal out of the original and pastes it beside the beat; only then can you see its sad beauty.
When the clouds do lift, the long-promised light is allowed to enter, but only for awhile; the melancholy runs deep. It does, though, make you all the more appreciative for its second-long glint of hope – the hope that never existed way back at the start of the record – and it brings the music closer to something spectacular and yet unobtainable. Tight beats clip and clink like silver coins rolled into a slot; that rainy, authentic vibe that Burial triumphed. If there is any dubstep – please, don’t run away – it’s the kind you can actually listen to; the kind that ripples softly across the street, scraping its bass against the rhythmic pavement.
“Waves” is a lyrical love story for that chance encounter, but a shuffling, zombie beat bruises the romance. Stuttering, blue jean beats aren’t afraid to swagger around, but they’re also clipped back – they know who their master is. And then, Raven spreads its wings, its secrets ruffled but still intact, leaving you to chase after its black shadows. (James Catchpole)