- In music, whenever two people collaborate there's always talk about how open and organic the process was. Occasionally, the stars align and two musicians—in this case, Australian folk singer Ry X and Âme's Frank Wiedemann—come together in such a complementary way that it does indeed seem like the most natural thing in the world. As Sacred Ground makes abundantly clear, Howling was meant to be.
In retrospect, you can see why these two are simpatico. It's easy to imagine Ry X's tremulous voice soaring above an Âme track, and Wiedemann's crew, Innervisions, has always absorbed indie-rock influences into its sound. But none of that guaranteed that Howling would forge such a deep, intuitive understanding.
"Howling" itself, the track that first propelled this project into the spotlight, was in many ways a misleading start. Essentially a Wiedemann edit of an existing Ry X song, to which he added a bassline and a beat, it's tentative and predictable, where their work since then has blossomed into something far more integrated. That said, the restraint and self-discipline that Wiedemann showed on "Howling" is instructive. Where an album like this could easily become a bloated clash of egos and ideas, Sacred Ground is both musically uncluttered and seemingly unforced. Its tracks appear to follow their natural paths, be that onto the dance floor or into small hours ballad territory.
At one end of the spectrum you have the gorgeous "Stole The Night." Its bruised, wistful tone recalls Cut Copy or Moderat, but, constructed from just a throbbing bass guitar, an earworm synth line and crisply-dispatched beats, it's a track of unusual poise and simplicity. In contrast, the eight-minute "Forest" evolves irresistibly from its initial Buddhist temple atmosphere—bells, running water, rustling percussion—into a big room banger, which Ry X leads with a fittingly incantatory vocal. Like "Short Line," it's an utterly convincing fusion of rock vocals and dance floor dynamics.
Sacred Ground does fall below that level, briefly. "Litmus" is a wet, lachrymose lapse. But that is more than outweighed by, say, "Zurich" or "Lullaby," which unexpectedly channel the Cocteau Twins to produce music of a rarefied, star-bright beauty. In an indie-dance lineage traceable from Scritti Politti to LCD Soundsystem to James Blake, this is highly sophisticated pop music that fuses its influences with a dazzling dexterity.
01. Signs (Album Version)
02. Stole The Night
03. Interlude I
04. X Machina
07. Short Line
09. Interlude II