Prison Letters is the moniker for Ryan Rex who recently released a three-song EP entitled “Loosen Up.” Rex calls the music he makes “menacing melancholy”. After listening to the songs on Loosen Up it’s self-evident where the melancholy comes from but I’m still trying to figure out the menacing part. The three songs are quite different conceptually as well as musically. If they weren't on the same EP you probably wouldn't piece together it was from the same artist.
The first track “Beaucoup Bees” starts with a beat box that I believe is all-digital but may be a manipulated voice. It sound like an ‘80s hip-hop beat made from one of the Fat Boys before it abruptly stops and the sound of a swarm of bees come closer. When Rex starts singing his voice is filtered and distorted. He layers vocals upon vocals as a couple of quirky synths enter into the mix. About halfway through the song the beat gets louder and Rex ditches the effects on his voice. I almost feel like there should have been a part 1 and part 2 with the song as the initial vocal style and delivery is so different from what he began with.
The second song “Rethinking Acrylics” couldn't have been much farther from opener ““Beaucoup Bees.” It’s basically a folk song that revolves around his voice and an acoustic guitar. The style fits much better on him and has an emotional weight that was absent from the first song.
On the last song Rex ditches his guitar and trades it in for a piano and pours his heart into delivering an inspired vocal performance. It’s covered in melancholy but is also quite hopeful.
Loosen Up is a solid lo-fi effort but a bit too short to have a full understanding of what Rex is trying to do. I’m hoping to hear some more material soon.
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