The power of quietly intense, passionate music to pull audiences into an intimate space is something this Australia-born, Los Angeles-based singer excels at.
After the breakout success of his minimalist BERLIN EP, Ry notched up a string of sold out shows across Europe, the USA and Australia in 2016.
Nurtured into shape over months of – as Ry says – “hibernation” and “emotional sweat” in the mountains north of LA, Ry’s debut album DAWN in 2016 was a sublime study in devotional song craft from a singer who seemed both awed by and in command of its elemental emotions.
Ry honours and expands on his vision with his second album. Between its rippling beats, mellifluous guitars, poised piano and questing vocals, UNFURL does what its title suggests: developing organically from Ry’s previous work, blossoming in delicate new directions while holding firm to its roots.
“I think my mission statement was simply to remain vulnerable and to capture that within this album,” says Ry. “The inspirations change each time, and I always want to allow that process to be free, to draw on new ideas and sounds and instrumentation. But what feels consistently important to me is keeping a sense of rawness and honesty in the work.”
That questing spirit goes way back to Ry’s roots. Raised in the coastal community of Angourie, off Australia’s east coast, he left home at 17 with a surfboard and an obsession with grunge. Traveling to Costa Rica, Indonesia, Stockholm, London, Berlin and Hollywood, he explored a passion for many forms of music, from Indian Ragas and African Jazz to the swells and tension of techno and more experimental electronic music, which led to two collaborations: one with Frank Wiedemann of German electronic duo Âme under the name Howling, the other with UK DJ Adam Freeland and California producer Steve Nalepa as The Acid. Just this year, The Acid performed at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo, scoring a screening of an anti-nuclear multimedia project titled The Bomb.
During his travels, Ry began writing fragile, acoustic and intimate songs, recording to tape to preserve their raw power. The BERLIN EP brought him to mainstream radio and paved the way for DAWN, which was written and recorded in close-to-nature isolation and toured to rapturous receptions. BERLIN has since notched up almost 80 million streams and, worldwide, his overall stream count has reached an impressive 120 million. Along the way, Ry’s stealthy rise saw Rihanna inviting him to remix doo-wop beauty LOVE ON THE BRAIN; in return, Ry gifted her a deep, stripped-back reinterpretation.
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Whatever weight of expectation this collaboration with R&B royalty entailed, Ry also now had his own expectant audience. For his second album, and after months of touring, he had a clear sense of what was needed to repay fans’ investment. “I grew up very simply,” he explains, “and I think I always want to come back to that.” Duly, he touched down at home in Topanga Canyon, to let songs written there and on tour, like the album title suggests, to unfurl at their own pace, close to the sea, family, friends and community.