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Album Review | Raime debuts ethereal, monotonous album

Lack of track distinction quickly makes Raime tedious

Published: Monday, December 10, 2012

Updated: Monday, December 10, 2012 15:12

Equal parts post−rock, gnarly ambient music and industrial noise, electronic duo Raime brings a disparate smattering of influences to its sound on “Quarter Turns Over a Living Line,” its debut LP. Over the course of the album, Joe Andrews and Tom Halstead explore a focused set of textures and moods at a contemplative, deliberate pace that calls to mind the atmosphere of a creepy art house movie.

The album opens on an apocalyptic note with “Passed Over Trail,” piping in waves of anonymous fuzz and machine sounds before accenting them with sporadic string swells in a style reminiscent of Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s breakout album, “F# A# Infinity” (1997). The result is tranquil in a gloomy kind of way and it isn’t long before the listener may feel a little unsettled. Whether or not that’s a desirable quality is pretty subjective, but it’s nice to see a group opening its album with such a moody piece.

Raime doesn’t bring a groove to the listener until the second track of the album, “The Last Foundry.” Even calling it a “groove” is a bit of a stretch: Raime prefers to set up an ambience rather than make any clear statement. When the rhythms come in, they almost never shift, serving as a static counterpoint to the ever−changing textures that gradually accumulate over the course of the track.

Ideas are introduced and whisked away in a constant stream over this unbending rhythmic foundation, creating a sound that’s constantly trying to reconcile two opposing dynamics. The vibe may be a bit tense and repetitive, but it’s certainly compelling.

“Soil and Colts” opens with a more heavy−hitting beat than the preceding track, but it takes a largely similar approach to development as “The Last Foundry.” The similarity between the two tracks illustrates a problem with Raime’s approach: Though the duo makes some very expressive music, there is not much variety to it. Each song, taken separately, is a tautly constructed atmosphere, but this potency is rapidly diminished when placed in the context of an album.

While Raime was obviously not aiming for a broad tonal palette when it set out to make “Quarter Turns Over a Living Line,” the group could have done more to flesh out the differences between the tracks on the album, either by structuring them differently or incorporating a wider range of sounds.

Almost every track begins with a primitive, persistent beat that becomes gradually submerged beneath growing synthesizers and white noise. Maybe people don’t look to ambient/noise music for surprising song structures, but that’s no reason to rely on the same approach for every track.

Even with the relatively short−running time of 37 minutes, “Quarter Turns Over a Living Line” can feel a bit long−winded. By the album’s completion, the droning, reverberant tracks all feel like one big, moody rumination on something catastrophically unpleasant. Rather than feeding into the unity of the album as separate, distinct contributions, the songs are homogenous enough to give the listener this nebulous impression.

This isn’t necessarily problematic, though Raime’s music seems to pack the most punch when it’s taken in smaller doses, whether by listening to one track at a time or picking slices of the album to listen to. For the adventurous listener, the group does some interesting work, but chances are “Quarter Turns Over a Living Line” will only be fully embraced by noise music enthusiasts and listeners with considerable patience. If you’re willing to take the plunge, go for it, but the waters are pretty murky.

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