Saturday, March 6, 2010
RAMLEH "HOLE IN THE HEART" (Dirter)
Double CD archival reissue of assorted Ramleh activities circa 1987. It's hard to appraise collections like this because there's really no singular identity to speak of-this wasn't an album crafted to be perceived as such and as a result it's all scattershot and non-cohesive. This release fares better than most as it's all culled from the same time period and is comprised of Gary Mundy only Ramleh material; this is a band with an extensive discography and an assortment of collaborators throughout its existence-having it be the work of one person makes its assessment a tiny bit easier and lends a certain weight to whatever thematics might be found within. At first listen this appears to be a more introspective Ramleh album, free of punishing electronics and the death-heavy industrial vibe that clouds over other releases in the catalogue. The main instrument here is guitar and that places this work among Ramleh's more psychedelic excursions. No percussion, sparing over-effected vocals that sound like windwash and a sprinkling of keyboards and wheezing organs round things out, creating an almost devotional soundswirl; if it weren't for Ramleh's nihilistic attitude you could almost mistake this for some sort of prayer, as the drones become so saturating and reaching. Most of the pieces here raging guitar squalls with layers of melody buried deep beneath; on tracks like "Bite the Bolster" and "Product of Fear" those melodies are unabashedly front and center, daring and taunting. On others, like the six part "Redcap" suite, they're far more elsuive, demanding completely active listening to loose them from the torrents of electricity they're hidden under. Either way this is one of Ramleh's most visceral collections, with an emotional grip that seems strangely intimate and eerily unexpected. This is a band that sits comfortably alongside both Skullflower and Whitehouse in terms of sound and subject matter so to have something so obviously "pretty" and expansive is a bit of a shock. I use the term "pretty" very loosely-this is noise we're talking about here so how far you're willing to take the terminology is up to you-but damn if this doesn't evoke some sort of base response. On the epic closer "True Religion" 20 plus minutes of guitar destruction and swelling, choir-like organs blend together into a heavenly screech, throwing arms ever upward to the skies. It's hard not to be moved by that sort of outpour, hard not believe that there was some sort of deeper question behind the track's creation. Noise isn't always just for the sake of itself. This collection seems to be to be a sort of crossroads in Ramleh's development-on the one side you have the harsh electronic stylings of the project's infancy and on the other you have the more exploratory embrace of guitar-led infinity that would lead to the eventual crafting of actual, controlled songs a few years down the road. Here in the middle you're assaulted by the convergence, the union of these mutant ideological strains of music, a birthing of a new sound. The record cover isn't far off-while gorgeous, austere and lonely there is also a far-reaching beauty, a depiction of so much ahead. The road is certain to be hard and at times difficult and challenging but there will always be the awe and the majesty and the sense of something larger than any of us. Whether you call it religion or noise or music or war or violence is irrelevant. What matters most is how you feel.