RR mainman Graeme Ronald and his cohorts are making fascinating music.
Mike Haydock 2011
Signed to Mogwai’s Rock Action label, Remember Remember is primarily the work of Scotsman and multi-instrumentalist Graeme Ronald. You can see why Mogwai took a shine to him: Ronald deals in a similar line of instrumental rock that builds from meagre beginnings and expands outwards. His 2008 eponymous debut was a magical record, rich with delicate melodies that sparkled and soothed; whereas Mogwai’s songs often crescendo into aggression, Remember Remember err on the side of swooning beauty.
Since 2008, Ronald has been recruiting an army of musicians to his cause – the six who joined in with his RR Scorpii EP in 2010 return for The Quickening, along with another guitarist and a string quartet. Remember Remember are now a formidable band rather than just one man in a studio.
As a result, The Quickening is a fuller-sounding album, with parts carefully orchestrated. The basic technique is the same, layering up instruments on top of a simple, repeated riff, but this is no longer the sound of Ronald with time on his hands and a box of tricks to play with. In comes the orchestra and out go his ‘found sounds’ – it’s goodbye to the bubble wrap and the wind-up monkey. Perhaps you could say he has matured.
Certainly there’s a brooding melancholy to most of these songs, particularly Scottish Widows and A Larger Demon, that was absent on Ronald’s playful debut; the band’s most joyful outburst here comes on album-closer John Candy, which is bright and poppy, but even that song slumps into a passage of minor chords. For a person who enjoyed the warmth of that debut, The Quickening will be a slightly troubling listen - one of furrowed brows rather than broad smiles.
The mood here is more subdued, and the warning is there from the off: opener White Castle’s thunderous chords and twinkling xylophones evoke a vision of a brewing storm that explodes overhead, while track two, Ocean Potion, is a nine-and-a-half-minute song that gradually speeds up, taking your heartbeat with it. Elsewhere, the stabbing strings and throbbing bass on Hey Zeus are just as menacing.
The Quickening is the sound of a man’s vision growing and changing. Fans of Remember Remember’s pretty debut might find the adjustment difficult, but there can be no doubt that Graeme Ronald and his cohorts are making fascinating music.