Genres might be a helpful tool for lazy journalists, and I should know, given half a chance, I am one but they are also the curse of the creative mind, and too many artists align themselves to a specific path as dictated by such labels. For, having allowed yourself to be pigeonholed and created audience expectations as a rock or pop or indie artist, you make it difficult on yourself should you wish to explore other musical pastures. It is better to have left all options open to you in the first place. It’s what Ryan Graves has always done; the results speak for themselves.

His latest album, Human, is a scattergun of sounds and styles, and I don’t mean that to sound unfocused; far from it. The album might be eclectic, but it knows what it is all about. Cleverly, Graves uses various genres as stepping stones, choosing the most suitable form to create the music to carry his message.

And message is the right word as Human is very much a declaration of his faith and his beliefs. But, like any good music made within a devotional setting, the way that the lyrics unfold means that even if you see the world differently or follow a different path, there is plenty to be taken away from his lyrics, lots of advice to be heeded and ideas that we can all relate to.

An eclectic album, it may be, but the core sound is one driven by a deft blend of rock muscle and electronic soundscaping. The opener, Enemy, sets the tone nicely, dark, dense and delicious, rapped lyrics tumbling over a wave of tribal beats, scything riffs and ebbs and flows of heavy synths. But by way of contrast, the album also has room for songs such as Meadows, an acoustic ballad framed by shimmering percussion and spacious beats, with mournful and spiralling cellos and pensive flutes adding the perfect touch of poignancy and pathos.

And between these two points on the spectrum, Graves lays out his sonic stall. Everything is a declaration of his faith put to folky sonics, and 139 is a spoken word piece set to fractured and fractious dystopian noise/music. Grace feels like the early days of the UK post-punk scene when disenfranchised punks rewired broken keyboards and turned them to their sonic will, and the title track is as energetic and driven an array of heavy electronica as you will have heard in a long time.

It’s a cool album, an album of variety, a rewarding album. And even if you ¬†initially come to this album for the message it conveys, you will keep returning for the dexterity and imagination of the music on display. Trust me, I’m a journalist!

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Musician, scribbler, historian, gnostic, seeker of enlightenment, asker of the wrong questions, delver into the lost archives, fugitive from the law of averages, blogger, quantum spanner, left footed traveller, music journalist, zenarchist, freelance writer, reviewer and gemini. People have woken up to worse.


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