(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Recording review - Ramona Falls, Prophet (2012)

Smooth pop and darker electro-prog on a knife edge

Ramona Falls' new album, Prophet, presents a contrasting study of light and shadow. The brighter pop elements strongly evoke Death Cab For Cutie's directness, but with a stronger electro pop bent. In this spirit, ex-Menomena member Brent Knopf offers his lyrics unadorned by emotional baggage, despite their emotional content. As he sings on Bodies of Water, "I have to, have to, have to let go of total control." Maybe that surrender drops the stakes a little. Knopf's detachment also gives the poppier moments a bit of retro synth pop feel.

Balancing the smoother pop surfaces, Ramona Falls brings in an electronically enhanced post rock worthy of Muse. This perspective is more like Knopf's earlier work and it underlies the stronger moments on Prophet.

provides a shining example. The opening piano fades in, its orderly repetition asserting a calm surface. At the same time, though, a tense bass line sabotages the sense of comfort. The no nonsense vocals come in to maintain order: "So, saddle up, we've got miles to go..." But frayed tatters of guitar show how tenuous the hold is. The break hits with a sucker punch beat and harsh bass grind, but the vocals assert their control again. The pressure builds until the discordant shards of guitars finally rip loose and strip away the facade to reveal the inner tension and turmoil.

The moment fades and the surface returns. The opening piano line drops the energy to cross cut into the soft beginning of Proof, the next track:
Are we friends?
Are we more?
There's no proof
Pensive tracks like Divide By Zero and Sqworm add more depth to balance the pop tunes with great dynamics, layers of subtle sonic elements, and electro-prog aesthetics. But which sound is figure and which is ground? Even the pop oriented tracks are full of shiny detail and lush additions. It will be interesting to see where Knopf takes Ramona Falls beyond Prophet and which way he'll lean.

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