R I T U A L "No Escape Out Of Time" Review

Words by Rachel Roundtree

Genre: R&B/Electronic
Start with: "Drown the lovers" feat. 6LACK
Favorite Tracks: "Drown the lovers" feat. 6LACK, "Wouldn’t Be Love", "Real Feels [Remix]"

The English quartet R I T U A L (Mononoke, Adam Gross, Tommy Baxter, and Gerard O’Connell) somberly equate love and loss in their stunning debut EP that explores the emotions of sacrifice and loss in the memories of love.  It takes the listener through the ramifications of trying to find true love in the real world- first sacrifice, to build the relationship and truly trust and fall for the person, and then loss, when the relationship is emotionally and physically over and the only thing left is the memory of them.  The ominous and dark album cover art of a car veered off the road with its headlights illuminating the night is a stamp of the place and time where his lover sought to escape.  What No Escape Out Of Time focuses on is the harbored memories of love that one can try to escape from, and the desire to alter the progression of time and specifically the time that is shared with a loved one.

The album itself has ten tracks with six main tracks that are in an unusual sequence:

  1. Exit

  2. Drown the Lovers

  3. Real Feels (feat. Denzel Curry)

  4. Wouldn’t Be Love

  5. Better By Now

  6. Hotel Bars

  7. Drown the Lovers (feat. 6LACK)

  8. Real Feels (feat. Kweku Collins) [R I T U A L Remix]

  9. Wouldn’t Be Love (Acoustic)

  10. Loyal

Chronologically, the album is more in the order of love to loss starting with ‘Real Feels’, ‘Wouldn’t Be Love’, ‘Hotel Bars’, ‘Better By Now’. ‘Drown the Lovers’, and ending on ‘Exit’, but it plays with order of space and time by purposefully melding past and present emotions of heartbreak and happiness and it reflects directly in the track listing order.  In addition, there is a laid-back remix of ‘Real Feels’ with Kweku Collins, acoustic version of ‘Wouldn’t Be Love’, and two appearances of 6LACK with his hypnotizing feature on ‘Drown the Lovers’ and their cover of his song ‘Loyal’.  Including artists like 6LACK, Denzel Curry, and Kweku Collins amplifies the R&B/electronic vibe and adds an established third voice that pairs well with the male-female vocalists.

However, the beautifully morose short film music video is what really sets R I T U A L apart.  No Escape Out Of Time ties together the three previous cohesive music videos for ‘Exit’, ‘Drown the Lovers’, and ‘Wouldn’t Be Love’ and adds a fully fleshed out story to it. The video is a spliced unchronological timeline of the events that show the tragedy of their love and dwells in the realistic heartache of losing someone.  The short but important lead-in of ‘Exit’ seeks a way out of the misery of the relationship but finds it “hard when you don’t ever find release in giving up”, illustrated by hazy images of car headlights and eerie flashforwards.  

What unfolds in the beginning is the death of Katie Clementine (played by Mononoke) as William Turner (played by actor William Turner Roden) is helplessly forced to watch in horror.  6Lack croons over the beginning of this suicide in the water, in both the physical and metaphorical sense of drowning past romances: “And we can drown all the lovers that have gone before/Let’s light them by the wrist/Their fingertips will burn”.  This visualization of light illuminating hands that are drowning in water to find renewal seems to have religious/spiritual allusions, but it quickly jumps to an excerpt of ‘Real Feels’ paired with excruciating brain experiments of memory loss in a lab.  The many flashbacks to positive memories provides deeper look into the “before” of the relationship during ‘Wouldn’t Be Love’ that merges euphoria and despair, with despair consuming Will as he mourns in ‘Better By Now’.

The most concrete glimpse into their lives comes with a piece of paper titled “Memory Reconfiguration Disclosed Summarisation” that Will finds, relating back to his earlier trauma strapped to a chair.  When he struggles to deal with the banalities of returning to a normal life, he turns to memory erasure as his escape and another note clearly comes into frame:

Katie Clementine has had Will Turner erased from her memory.  Please never mention their relationship to him again.  Thank you.

This unexpected note shows that they both elected to clear these memories from their minds, and it is an indication that the drowning first experienced at the beginning of the video is more mental than physical.  An unusual detail is the clear notation of Kaluna Inc. as the site of the memory loss.  While there doesn’t seem to be an actual Kaluna Inc. (or a reference to a different scientific lab), Kaluna holds significance in Hindi meaning to give (perhaps for them to give up their memories and emotions tied to each other) and also in Hawaiian meaning a lineup in surfing (perhaps reliving these memories in the lab is reminiscent of surfing a wave).  Even though it’s unclear why Kaluna Inc. is specifically included, hopefully future interviews and insights into R I T U A L as a band will reveal the reasoning behind it.  The video concludes with Will opening his eyes, renewed, and credits rolling over ‘Hotel Bars’ as a familiar set of blinking lab lights connects the story back to the spotty headlights at the start.  
Overall, one must applaud the purposefully messy scenes of a tumultuous love story R I T U A L and director Jackson Oucasse tackle in this music video.  On the album, a personal favorite is the hypnotic, chill vibe of ‘Real Feels feat. Kweku Collins [Remix]’, though ‘Drown the Lovers feat. 6LACK’ is the most commercially accessible and is a good diving off point to understand R I T U A L without the music video or listening to the album in full.  Their fresh blend of electronic and R&B instrumentation mixed with the strong female-male vocalists is what musically defines them, and their attention to detail and commitment to developing a complex music video narrative is what makes them memorable.