Who is CYRRCA? An ambient producer, a musical artist – but on his new self-titled album one could believe he is a collective. What matters is the extraordinary talent throughout these 13 tracks.
The multilingual (but mostly American English) album is just one aspect of a project that also includes an “art book, an episodic visual album with full-length music videos for every song, and thirteen 3D animated symbols, which illustrate the mythic narrative that shimmers throughout the work.” All this creativity was inspired by “a multi-year journey across the globe.”
Sounds mythic, for sure. Pretentious, maybe. But it doesn’t come off that way. Far from self-consciously artsy, the tracks reek of thoughtful authenticity, always questioning but truthful.
That realness powers to the surface right from the opening track, the ambient “North Sea.” “A throatless ancient melody feels so far gone because I’ve gone so far in,” intones a narrator, venting the age-old complaint about the inadequacy of words to describe our profoundest emotions. “Words warble, phrases orbit the feeling, I can’t get it right.”
The song quotes Yeats, and the great Irish poet returns seven tracks later in “Pyrrhic Victory,” set in the Bay of Kotor in the Montenegrin Adriatic. There the narrator recounts being introduced to Yeats and reading his poems while listening to rap on the radio. He doesn’t say this, but the implication is manifest: Such juxtapositions are the stuff of great new art. The beautiful video is well worth immersing oneself in.
Poetry from the opposite side of the world is the subject of the “Still Thankful” video. While the album track is another one-minute interlude, the expanded video version sees CYRRCA evoking the classical Chinese poets Li Po and Tu Fu and concluding: “These songs are not mine / to borrow your words / they are, rather // Rewards of a noble hunt.” The Chinese poets are name-checked again in “Bonifacio,” along with Byron and Hesse.
But the effort to nonetheless “get it right,” however futile in a philosophical sense, has profound sonic results through the ensuing tracks. The global odyssey next moves to Serbia for “Beograd,” courtesy of Sailli, then to South Korea for “Namsan” (featuring Hyojin Park): “I talk with sages and monks but they’re cut off like the rest.”
The good-time rap/R&B energy of “Temple Charm” (featuring SOLE) takes us to Rio with a catchy chorus and a breezy video full of color filters and animations.
Even the one-minute “Qufu Interlude” has an enigmatic video, with a statue-like figure in gold paint sinking into a tub of milky liquid. Qufu is in China, but this wordless little piece seems to be about the artist’s interior world rather than anything he’s experiencing on his geographic journey.
It’s followed by the album’s greatest earworm, “Apocalypse Tao,” built on a dark koto riff.
The video for the final track, “Istanbul,” finds CYRRCA at the water again, this time the Aegean Sea or the Bosporus. In this love song he references Rumi; the great Turkish novelist Orham Pamuk; and the minarets of the city’s many mosques. But always he returns to the internal world. “I roam, I roam and adapt…to change myself, to re-create, to go beyond place and date.” The quest to find inner meaning never ends. “To do the thing I cannot do, something runs within me and I’m guilty if I don’t work diligently to set it free.”
The music encompasses a number of styles and moods and is captivating throughout: worldly, smoothly produced, evocative, both exotic and familiar. I was sold on the sounds and the beats before I glimpsed the videos, which are all available on CYRRCA’s YouTube channel. You can stream the album at most of the usual places.