Porter Ray

Eye of the Beholder

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Seattle rapper Porter Ray's 2017 debut studio album Watercolor was aptly titled, its production composed of smeary atmospheric textures and Ray's dexterous flows always steeped in a rainy melancholy. Just a year later, Eye of the Beholder continues the sad daydreaming that began on Watercolor. Not quite a second album, it feels strange to think of the 11 songs with multiple guest verses that make up Eye of the Beholder as an EP. Instead of the focused statements on loss and grief that made up much of Watercolor, this new set of songs offers Ray a chance to float through a wide array of thoughts and verbal acrobatics as he rhymes about life on tour, daily struggles, motivation, and other ponderances. The juxtaposition of drifting, laid-back beats and Ray's neatly designed rhymes becomes the focal point of his sound. Electric piano loops and soft synth patches wash by on relaxed beats as Ray delivers turbulent rhyme schemes. The sharpest examples of this unlikely pairing come in "Prism Within" and "Eye of the Beholder [The Vision]," where Ray's wordplay is so tense and deliberate he can barely contain it within the confines of the beat. Other times he tends toward mellower, almost psychedelic rapping, as on the delay-coated bars that make up "The Diamond That Cuts Thru Illusion." In other moments of the EP he sits out almost completely, as on the brief instrumental "Far Light" or the minimal amble of "The Mountain and the Moon," where his spoken verses come closer to poetry recitation than rapping. Eye of the Beholder doesn't do much to expand on the unique sound Ray perfected with Watercolor, but it's a welcome appendix to that excellent work. Combining pensive, ambient-leaning instrumentals and carefully constructed lyrics, Ray creates a sound as gray, misty, and distantly beautiful as the Pacific Northwest neighborhoods he calls home.