Ramleh – ” The Great Unlearning” – [Nashazphone]
Ramleh have been honing their craft, off and on, for 37 years. When the band reformed in 2009, they set out to work in both the power electronics sound typical of their early days and with a more straight-up bass-guitar-drums rock sound. With this double LP we hear a variety of sounds: droney electronics, straight-up noise rock, indignant vocals with understandable lyrics, fuzzed out drum machines, and meandering guitars. Despite this eclecticism, Ramleh manage to carry a sonic theme throughout. (The lyric themes and the track titles—Futureworld, No Music For These Times, Your Village Has Been Erased—are easy enough to thread together.) The sound trends dark but isn’t unrelentingly dark. Favorite tracks: D3, D1, A1
A1. Big, oceanic synth sounds and textures. Brooding bass portends doom. Drums provide a light touch. Instrumental. Towards the middle of the track, things start to pick up. Tempo, guitar complexity. This long track is somewhat different from the rest of the album, but again, there are sonic themes, a mood in the sound, that can be traced throughout.
B1. Driving drums and bass. Vocal element. “Virus synths”. They take a theme and ride it hard, which is perhaps another way of saying it’s borderline repetitive. Towards the ends there’s a bit of a freak-out noise break-down.
B2. Thick ascending/descending synth part reminiscent of Recognizers. Digital big brother perhaps? Guitar wanders in and out, but the synth drone is predominant, especially in the beginning. Instrumental.
C1. Pretty conventional-sounding rock song, complete with cowbell. (!)
C2. Ominous synths with barked vocals, a soundtrack for civil disorder and the unravelling of society. The shortest track on the album by a long-shot.
C3. They kind of jam this one out a little harder. Instrumental. Very rock and roll with dash of noise; has some psychedelic leanings, though to be sure, this is a borderline bad trip.
D1. Doomy beginning, heavy. Vaguely like early Swans. Contains the one FCC on the album (shit). After a solo vocal phrase, there’s a rousing finish. Probably my favorite track on the record.
D2. Synths and drum machines return. Spare at points. A pretty guitar sound swoops in and comes as a bit of a surprise given the pervasive atmosphere of the album.
D3. A heavy rocking piece to close this out. Thick, overdriven bass, layers of delicate guitar work. Epic, suffused with feeling, such disappointment at the way things have gone. Ultimately the song exhorts us to change course; “it’s never too late”.
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