CIRCULAR TIME by Ramleh
Genre: Noise Rock, Power Electronics
Favorite Tracks: “American Womanhood,” “The Tower,” “Weird Tyranny”
Harsh power electronics drone is not exactly a genre that could be classified as “accessible.” Yet, somehow, noise veterans Ramleh have managed to craft an immensely palatable, absorbing, mountainous wall of fuzzy guitars, droning bass, and tribal drums with their new record CIRCULAR TIME that is refreshingly enjoyable. Ramleh have been a band in one form or another since 1982, and by operating within a niche, avant-garde genre such as power electronics, it’s no wonder that the group has significantly slowed down their output since their heyday in the 80s and 90s. Staying relevant and new in such a narrowly defined genre can be incredibly challenging; purists are disappointed by the slightest deviation while critics are bored by even a wisp of repetition. This may be why Ramleh has verged into more noise-rock based territory as the years have gone by. It’s much easier to broaden musical influences than to restrict them.
The result is a consistently surprising and varied record that manages to stay rooted in steady rhythms, making CIRCULAR TIME listenable and giving it a consistent driving pulse from beginning to end. The warm, consistent static of Anthony Di Franco’s bass and the relentless pounding of Martyn Watts’ drums allow Ramleh founder Gary Mundy to tinker and riff on guitar while not feeling uprooted or directionless. All in all, it’s an album that shouldn’t be as fun as it ends up being.
For a band with such experimental roots, it’s pleasantly refreshing how dance-able a number of the tracks are, particularly when Di Franco’s industrial groove comes to the forefront on tracks like “American Womanhood” and “The March.” There’s a definite ominous-yet-sexy vibe on these tracks that fans of bands like Big Black and Death From Above 1979 should immediately gravitate towards. Add to the mix some sparing, well chosen Nick Cave inspired vocals, and many of these tracks become perfect “let’s make out in an abandoned warehouse while we wear matching Doc Martens” songs. As many of the tracks spin out into seven, 10, and even 15 minutes in length, the extended jams take on sludge and doom inspired tones that are incredibly easy to get swept up into. Watts’ pummeling floor tom creates a trance-like state that allows the listener to go to some oftentimes swirling and arrhythmic places with Mundy’s guitar.
If there’s one knock against the record, it’s that it seems to revisit the same ideas again and again. CIRCULAR TIME does with 13 tracks what it easily could have accomplished with eight. However, as the album draws slowly to its close with the track “Weird Tyranny,” it’s difficult not to feel a wave of nostalgia as the taut pulse of previous tracks gives way to a more melancholic wave of ambient drone. Atmospheric tracks like this can feel intangible to casual listeners, but by the time the listener reaches “Weird Tyranny,” a nice bed of fuzz is soothing after more than an hour of tense jamming from Ramleh. Overall, it’s amazing that a band that’s been around for over thirty years managed to put out such an original and satisfying album, a testament to their dedication to crafting great music, entirely outside the influence of commercial success.