there’s something about three love songs that is simultaneously nostalgic and unfamiliar. if that previous sentence makes any sense to you, you’ll probably love this record as much as i already do, and maybe even more than i ever could. the first few tracks are safe: warm and inviting, they give a sense of security that has a decidedly placid tone. but yet, at the same time they’re unsettling; sam ray careens slightly from idea to idea in short, two-minute snippets, as if he’s testing the waters and settling into a musical palate that he can truly work with.
if nothing else, these experiments build up anticipation. it’s evident from the get-go that ray will find his stride, one that winds up running asymptotic to the infinite threshold of euphoria. as the swells on “big man’s last trip outside” give way to cascading electronic waterfalls, i’m reminded of hugh le caine’s 1955 masterpiece “dripsody” and how well simple audio concepts translate into the construction of vast soundscapes. ray’s first true masterpiece is the subsequent track, “in rural virginia; watching glowing lights crawl from the dark.” the ménage à tois of found sounds, spoken word samples, and ambient swells is exquisitely jarring, with established pads occasionally interrupted by distorted, almost unintelligible speech.
just as three love songs begins to settle into a rhythm with continuous use of delicate piano, ray veers sharply to the left with “in my dreams we’re almost touching,” a five-minute foray into house music that is easily my favorite track on the album. even though he returns to an ambient state after the song ends, ray has nonetheless shown his full hand; he’s capable of diversifying his formula on a whim, using similar techniques to create vastly different sounds.
the unpredictability of this album should be fairly clear by now, even if you haven’t heard a single track off of it yet. but as much as the songs are technically impressive, the emotional power that three love songs conjures up is even more commendable, and is probably the most important aspect to discuss. the album reads like an intimate roller coaster of a nameless teenage diary, both titularly and musically. there are moments of elation, ones you would expect out of a song titled “in my dreams we’re almost touching,” but there are certainly darker, hesitant moments, like “outside your house; the lights went dark & there was nothing” followed by “i can hear the heart breaking as one.” the album is befitting of an artist who is still young, one who is still experimenting and finding his footing in the electronic realm.
three love songs is wonderful. each song either juxtaposes with or segues to the next perfectly, just as sam ray intended. most importantly, the album doesn’t stall out. instead, ray traverses along a horizontal plane of different emotions, never delving too deep into any particular one and proving that he’s adept at creating a bevy of feels. this is a masterful craft, and one that will inevitably be talked about at the end of this year. don’t miss out on the fun.