Ryat - Totem

Following on from 2010's “Avant Gold” and a state-side tour that caught the eye of Flying Lotus, American multi instrumentalist Christina 'Ryat' McGeehan now finds herself signed to Brainfeeder and ready to unleash “Totem” upon us.
And what a signing it is as Totem is absolute gold – building on the clever song structures of its predecessor yet replacing the big beat style with subtler production, an overall feeling of wonky pop epic and conceptual themes of personal transformation through Native American animal spirit guides (take a look at the track titles...).
The vocal comparisons to Bjork are certainly deserved yet Ryat cites influences as diverse as Teebs, Johnny Greenwood and Rachmaninoff in the making of this album.
The opening tracks do indeed introduce spazmodic outbreaks of finely chopped Teebs-esque melodious glitch  - pitching tightly edited beat structures against minute snippets of numerous instruments into a highly effective pick and mix audio free-style.
Abstract clattering drums, tumbling harps, strings and distressed rapid loop wig outs are the order of the day with 'Windcurve' and 'Seahorse' testing out the further exploratory reaches of this production style - yet the genius throughout is how it all so perfectly compliments Ryat's commanding vocal presence.  
On 'Owl' drum rolls, harps, strings, soaring vocals and lolloping beats are seemingly culled from totally disparate sources yet somehow hang together with piano at times strident, at others angelic. It's the kind of collage that shouldn't work yet somehow manages to effortlessly fall into place.
Without wishing to diminish the excellence of the first half, the album really comes in to form  centre point onwards as “Hummingbird” and “Footless” flow together with devastating effect. The former subjects us to weepy strings before a gentle arpeggio introduces epic vocal, piano and splayed beats.  The latter reverses the piano before introducing an absolutely stunning midpoint flip into sublime guitar and concluding lyrics 'Fly fly with me'.  
The beauty of these tracks is in the unexpected structural twists and turns - forming complex compositions where conclusive melodies seemingly appear at random and rarely return.  It takes a good three and a half minutes before 'Invisibly Ours' reveals its true identity - as acoustic guitar and powerful vocal delivery initially combine before dropping into a stuttering bass and drum workout and pop led lyrics.
As a whole 'Totem' is a superb realisation of artistic intent -  blending multiple influences, styles and sentiments into a brilliantly abstract yet complete whole. We look forward to the rumoured move to London and European summer tour....
'Totem' is released June 5th 2012 on Brainfeeder


Review by Andy Gillham

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