Terra Lopez has dealt with a lot of change. Over the past decade, Lopez’s ambient pop duo Silent and Clementine evolved into Sister Crayon until she finally settled on the name Rituals of Mine. From duo to band back to duo and now presenting as more or less a solo project, Lopez has remained the sole constant in all iterations of her work with the background shifting around her. That picture has finally focused, and 2020’s HYPE NOSTALGIA is her attempt to pick up the pieces of a traumatic decade.
“Tether,” the album’s spacey opening track, sounds like opening your eyes while underwater and taking in that brief moment of peace before coming up for air. The trip hop elements flood in with sharp drums and glitchy vocal samples that mix effortlessly with Lopez’s looped vocals. It’s more of a vibe than a full-fledged track, and it works as it sucks listeners into this murky vortex.
Lopez’s deceptively straightforward lyricism contains endless wisdom that can only come from living through enough pain to identify it. “Exceptions” slinks into the sultrier R&B side of the album, which explores falling out with an ex-bandmate. The lyric “Take all of my pride / throw it out / you never once let me down / until now” brings about the relatable dull pain of reminiscing on a toxic relationship.
Lopez’s best asset is herself, with her layered vocals creating a subtle yet unnerving dissonance that feels ever-so-slightly detached from reality on several tracks. Much like a response to trauma, it’s easier to disconnect than be present, and much of HYPE NOSTALGIA cleverly plays with these tiny sonic cues to create an emotional experience.
One year before announcing the transition from Sister Crayon to Rituals of Mine, Lopez’s father passed away. Six months later, so did her best friend. In an attempt to make sense of such tragedy, Lopez found comfort in defining her pain. The aptly-named “Trauma” explores the discovery of intergenerational trauma and its vicious cycle that Lopez found herself engulfed in. The repetitive hook “Trauma could never figure me out” surrounded by the high pitched frequencies, rumbling bass and shriek-like instrument samples make for an overwhelming barrage of sound that turns Lopez’s nonchalant vocals into a steadfast attempt at breaking patterns of trauma.
Likewise, “65th St” allows listeners to peek through the foundation built by “Trauma” and “Free Throw.” Lopez’s vocal ability sparkles with tinges of guilt and sadness as she remembers the tragic phone call that changed her life forever. She tiptoes around the lyric “All I ever wonder is if you are the source of my emptiness,” supplemented by the lush piano that fades into indiscernible ambience. It’s the confusing middle stage of grief—denial mixed with heartbreak in its most basic form. However, Lopez also understands the need to resolve such emotions, both for herself and for the listener. “Hope U Feel” ends with a joyful recording of Lopez as a toddler with her father, a fitting way to bookend such a powerful display of vulnerability.
HYPE NOSTALGIA feels more like a series of concepts than an album. Each song’s distinct sonic illustrations of grief and pain may feel almost too obvious at times. That’s what makes it so enjoyably earnest, with lyrics that sound like they were written on the spot in long studio sessions, bedroom riffs and hurriedly typed-out notes on a cell phone. Lopez and her team of producers created something that imprints itself onto you, tapping into the most basic feelings of fear, grief and anger that even the new listeners can recognize as a healing moment. Rituals of Mine may or may not be the final iteration of Terra Lopez and her musical aims, but this is her at her freest.
Jade Gomez is a New Jersey-based freelance writer, dog mom, Southern rap aficionado and compound sentence enthusiast. Feel free to shout into the void or follow her on Twitter.