Firstly, this baby’s a double. Thirteen tracks. Two hours or so of your life will be taken from you as you surrender to the inevitable, and immerse yourself in this compelling, crushing, reality-warping, toe-tapping (true!) opus that Messrs Mundy, Di Franco and Watts have created here. My recommendation is put the kettle on, put out a few biscuits, press “Play” on whichever device you use, relax and dive deep. Very deep.
Firstly, for those unfamiliar with this band (and shame be cast upon you if you call yourself an “alt-rock” fan and that be the case), there’s a very neat précis of their history that came in the press release, and since they were the ones that done lived it, it’s only right that they tell you what they did…
“One of the key bands to emerge from the British post-industrial underground of the early 1980s alongside their Broken Flag label-mates, Skullflower, RAMLEH continually shifted between the extreme, confrontational power electronics of their early material and their later forays into searing, lysergic noise rock, right up until the band went on an extended hiatus in the late 1990s. The group would return later the following decade with a number of reissues and new releases, but up until now, almost all of the new material from the re-activated RAMLEH leaned more towards their power electronics and harsh noise tendencies. “
This is their first full-length “rock” record in roughly twenty years, and quite frankly, they’ve picked up exactly where releases like “Shooter’s Hill” left off. This is a good thing.
There is an audible return to the “speaker-shredding, void-gazing psychedelia, pushing the pummeling, Hawkwindian meltdowns … into realms of total obliteration.” (press release) but tracks like “Flamen Dialis” and “The Tower” also have an almost playful, groove-locked momentum to them that ensures that the mood is never set too long and that you can indeed, cut an almost CAN-like rug to some of the tracks.
The set-up is simple enough. Drums. Guitar. Bass. Synthesizers. This isn’t progressive rock though. The drummer (Watts) hammers away with a rabid determination to bring the songs under control whilst the Di Franco’s guitars scorch, drone and blaze their way above and beyond the rhythms. Mundy locks the bass into a sludgy riff and at points brings in an overloaded synth to increase the squall of noise that forms the backbone of tracks like the back-to-back finale of “Weird Tyranny” and “Never Returner”. At points I was convinced I was listening to a properly recorded set by Les Rallizes Denudes where at last everything could be heard. If that sounds like damning with faint praise, it’s not. Takeshi Mizutani should join Ramleh. They’re the true heirs to his throne.
Elsewhere on the CD / Download you have the deceptive studio strum of opener “Re-entry” that mutates into a frenzy of feedback and propulsive drums. There is
also the Mugstar-like thrust of “Incubator”, (with a touch more agro thrown into the mix), the dronescaping Indian-influenced sounds of “Renaissance Warfare,” (“Volcanic Ragas” according to the PR, which isn’t a bad summary) and the occasional lurch into developed guitar noodlage (think “Down By The River” with a bit more technical nous and a few more effects pedals) with tracks like “American Womanhood.” “Liberty Bell” tom-toms itself into a terrific groove with a choral backing (mellotron?) making it sound like a final race towards Heaven. “Entropy” is an fx/ reverb soaked shifting soundscape of humane dread. Bleakly absorbing.
“Rock” Ramleh have returned with a really great record. It’s experimental, but not alienating. Its long and demands your attention but doesn’t outstay its welcome. It varies its mood. The press release makes a thing about it being an album of “dark, often brutal music”. I think they’ve done the band a slight disservice. Yes, there are moments of psychnoise, but it’s Ramleh! Anybody schooled in any form of psychedelia would expect this, from Brainticket to The Butthole Surfers, it’s all part of the noble heritage of this music and Ramleh maintains this Freak-Out tradition with heads held high. It rocks. It rocks loudly, but not stupidly. It grooves, it moves, it breathes. If you can listen to “The Ascent” and not wish to hear and see them lock into such a tight groove live, then you’re made of stronger stuff than me.
Definitely a contender for a place in my top ten releases of the year.