reviewThe Silent Ballet
I owe pretty much all my interest in modern ambient to two people: Harold Budd and Chuck Wild.
Budd is pretty universally known in ambient and minimalist circles, but it's Chuck Wild's work
under the name Liquid Mind that first exposed me to the completeness of soundscaping and the way
it can teleport the listener. It's remarkable, really, that so little can be capable of so much,
but I felt that Wild's songwriting always takes me to some mystical place with lotus flowers
everywhere and crystalline streams babbling just out of sight. This leads me to I Could Not
Love You More and the London trio Rameses III.
"We Shall Never Sing of Sorrow" opens Rameses III's new limited-edition vinyl with an aura of
glowing drone straight out of the Nile valley. Light guitar chords periodically strummed add a
modern touch to the piece, and even though there isn't much change over the course of its nearly
nine-minutes, it sets a tone for the album that encourages the listener to dig in deeper.
There is an intrigue in this track that speaks to the mythic power of ancient Egypt, yet also
carries something of the contemporary English countryside as well, something both foggy and desert-like.
That said, it's not really until later into the album with folky pieces such as "No Water, No Moon"
that Rameses III really hit its stride. The delicate interplay of banjo (or maybe mandolin? or both?)
and other not-quite-identifiable instrumentation put the listener in situ—I personally found myself
in the wetlands at dawn with frogs and herons. Meanwhile, the pedal steel in "The Kindness in Letting
Go" fires a harpoon into the listener's soul and immediately starts to drag him by the heartstrings.
The clarity of those opening notes quickly decays into a beautiful chaos of muddled piano keys layered
on top of each other, three or four parts thick. It may, in fact, be the best song on the album.
Unfortunately, the few songs between those mentioned are pretty bland. I've read suggestions that I
Could Not Love You More is front-loaded, but songs like "Cloud Kings," the third track, aren't significantly
different from much else in the instrumental ambient field, and don't do much to keep one invested beyond
the first few minutes.
I Could Not Love You More is an evocative and largely successful record that reminds me why I was
attracted to ambient in the first place. There are a couple of missteps into banality, but Rameses
III overwhelmingly captures the imagination of its listeners with this latest offering, and it would
be remiss of anyone who fancies themself a fan of minimal music not to get their hands on this record
as soon as possible.
Friday 10 April 2009