THE RAMSGATE HOVERCRAFT Arcane Empire (DDL & double vinyl album on Ramsgate Hovercraft Music)
This release from 2014 features 2 hours and 21 minutes of mellow progrock.
The Ramsgate Hovercraft is: Mark Bandola (on guitars, keyboards, drums, banjo) and Kit Jolly (on saxophone and keyboards).
Blending horns, astral guitar and electronics to form a variety of tunes that range from gentle progrock to abstract excursions.
The first track is a mellow excursion with dreamy keyboards establishing an airy backdrop for incidental electronic bleepings, sedate bass thumps and pensive percussives of a non-locomotive variety. The tune drifts with a languid disposition, evoking cloudy nocturnal vistas of a haunted nature. As the piece progresses, subtle guitar effects wander through the mix, lending a spiritual presence.
After an opening of gentle electronic effects, the next piece musters some strength but remains generally abstract as various whirs and bleeps swim in a churning pool of murkiness. Ultimately, a feeling of being adrift in outer space is achieved.
Track three presents a more melodic tune, albeit one laced with elements of clanking chaos overwhelming the floating horns.
Track four pits mournful horns against some winsome keyboard threads with guitar mangling lurking in the mix. While the general mood is abstract, hints of melody strain to surface, guided by erratic percussives as the electronics lend an echoing character to things.
In the next song, strident horns conspire with spiraling electronics to generate a realm of urgency in which the music strives to capture the audience's attention and whisks everyone away to a safe place.
The sixth song offers a pleasant escape with twinkling keys and languid rhythms and soulful horns. The electronics provide edgy punctuation throughout this rather relaxing tune. Celestial tonalities usher in a soothing melodic finish.
Track seven introduces a twanging banjo to a cosmic milieu amid a gradually building mix of guitar, drums and shuddering keys...all of which reaches a mild pinnacle of sonic calm.
The next piece creates a zone of tension out of minimal sounds: hints of horns, sparse drones, elongated scrapes, blinking pulsation, and a rising tide of chaotic beats.
Track nine is one of the album's pair of epic songs (at 22 minutes long). Here, the abstract is tempered with placid melodies as the horns moan with latent emotion and the guitar burbles with astral effects and the tonalities waft like banks of fluffy clouds. As the sax delineates a tune of pastoral yearning, the space guitar twinkles amid a sea of ephemeral electronics. The temperate interplay continues, outlining a lazy aerial excursion. A church organ enters the flow, guiding the guitar back to earth for a tender finish.
The next song pits wandering horns against turgid background electronics and guitar effects for a meandering tune of somber delicacy.
The tenth piece is another long epic (at 24 minutes) in which abstraction collides with ambience, resulting in a stretch of minimalism designed to lull as well as haunt the listener. The instruments churn in the distance, releasing soft sounds that alternate from sedative to edgy, all the while restraining themselves to remain unaggressive. A sense of tension is generated as the sounds coalesce toward the end, achieving a sparse density in their remoteness.
Track eleven is a gentle song. Tender keyboards and whimsical electronic bloops mix with languid saxophone to produce a mellow jazz cafe tune laced with hints of space guitar.
The last track returns to the void for a journey adrift amid elongated tones, whispering static that reaches a point of escape from reality as the song plunges into weirdness drenched in a cosmic demeanor.
In a world where so much progrock is forceful and dense, this release refreshingly explores a softer realm of tuneage.
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