Review of original Under the Spire CD version of 'For José María'
Almost heroic: An all-encompassing journey based on wordless emotion.
This epic instrumental work by the UK-based post-rock/minimalist group Rameses III
is a musical dedication to the Spanish pianist and athlete Jose Maria Bellido, a friend
of the band who died of complications from diabetes. While there are certainly touches
of darkness and sadness in the music, For Jose Maria is largely imbued with spiritual
and inspirational elements celebrating life (and post-death transcendence). Expansive
strings, subtle textural scrapings of found sounds, and occasionally eerie electronics
alternate magestic images of heavenly ascent with moments of pensive nostalgia. Featuring
the voice of Bellido's daughter Cristina delivering a eulogy to her deceased father in
Spanish, the composition is an epic, heartfelt tribute to the pianist.
The opening piano chords, which bring to mind Radiohead's "Pyramid Song," initially set
the stage with a dark and otherworldly soundscape. From there, the piece seems to take
an almost programmatic approach, opening to lush strings and ascending melodic fragments
that juggle sadness with feelings of contentment and ultimately sheer ecstasy.
For the most part, the album slowly moves between sustained chords of hazy strings,
low-end synth rumblings, and massive swells of reverb to create an almost heroic sound
touched with twinges of sadness. It's a testament to Rameses III that the band is able
to create such a compelling 17-minute track based on such economy of material. The sounds
of children at a playground are interwoven with metallic rustling over the dream-like bed
of orchestra and synths. Wordless falsetto vocals reminiscent of Sigur Ros waft nearly
imperceptibly within the instrumental texture.
Cristina's eulogy—split into three short sections as the introduction, center, and
conclusion of the piece—lends the music a deeply moving and human element. The inflections
of her voice deliver a somber and eloquent counterpoint to the inspirational musical
gestures. The fact that it is in Spanish (from the point of view of an English-speaking
reviewer) heightens the hazy ambiguity of the music. The closing of the piece is
particularly powerful. The music gradually fades into oblivion, leaving only Cristina's
voice in a somber but cherishing prayer to her father.
In a musical world so saturated with ambient soundscapes, Rameses III achieves something
truly moving with For Jose Maria. The deceptive simplicity of the composition creates a
lush and floating sonic space clearly built more on emotional complexities than harmonic
or melodic motion. No single instrument or texture (outside of Cristina's voice) takes
center stage. Rather, the sounds melt into a seemingly uniform cloud of sound—one
refreshingly forgoes ego, flashy musicianship, or electronic gimmicks. The fact that
the music is able to draw you into an all-encompassing journey based almost entirely on
wordless emotion is indicative of the reverence the band holds for their deceased friend.
Based on the sounds and quiet majesty of For Jose Maria, Jose Maria Bellido must have been
Wednesday 8 September 2010