malleus&incus

Ragni: Lost at Sea

Posted in Experimental, Folk, Indie, Record Review by jurbanik on July 16, 2010

There are a few gems in my music collection, but for me none is as treasured as Ragni’s sole EP. To be honest, I found Ragni completely unintentionally: my discovery was the result of a random Google search for the word ‘somnambulist.’ A technical term for a sleepwalker, I had merely searched because the word seemed so cool. Since then, despite Ragni dropping off of Google’s front page, it has become one of my favorite words, mostly because ‘The Somnambulist’ is the beautiful second song of the Ragni EP and I want as much as possible to do with that song.

The twenty-five minutes of music included on the EP may be all the recorded music of Ragni’s that the public ever gains access to, but in reality, it is enough. The EP is one where the songs can be listened to individually, but the recording really becomes its own when listened to collectively. Because of the importance of each part to the whole, I will post all five songs given that you promise to listen to them all.

While Ragni only surfaced for a brief time, creating their myspace in 2006, releasing their EP in 2007, and then vanishing after a short European tour, they certainly knew how to make music. The EP itself was recorded in vocalist Brenden Fletcher’s grandparents house, and suitably features hints of old home recordings, creaking floorboards, and the overall ambience of a shoreline home. Subtle melodic developments in the piano parts get to know Brenden’s peaceful yet somehow powerful voice. Together, piano, guitar, and voice dance under the candlelight accompaniment of beautiful strings and dream under the blanket of coastal fog.

Minden// Ragni EP

The first track, Minden (Hungarian for ‘everything’), is a short two minute intro defined by a high pitched tone that phases subtly throughout the song. The timbre of this tone is beautiful – as opposed to the grating sound of some drone music, it soothes. The cyclical building and sinking of the tone is almost indiscernable, but amplifies the building effect of the strings. Layers upon layers of strings add on over the jingling of bells, the tone, and a later on repetitive synth keys line. Overall, it creates an atmosphere that is completely entrancing and perfectly performs its task of getting the listener prepared to absorb the coming tracks.

The Somnambulist// Ragni EP

My favorite song on the EP, and one of my favorite songs of all time, The Somnambulist is absolutely haunting. It is important to realize that Fletcher’s choices with his vocals are entirely intentional: when you can’t understand the lyrics, he doesn’t want you to know exactly what they say. Instead, the vocals are muttered ambiguously, the musings of a sleepwalker. While you may be able to understand some of the words that are uttered, the meaning of the full sentence is left up to you as Fletcher trails off towards the end of each phrase. The only clearly articulated words in the song are the chorus “All alone everywhere/ I have no more control/ I have no self control.” This lamentation signals developments in the instrumentals both times it is repeated, suggesting that the dreamer has more control than they realize. But beyond the ethereality of the vocals, the way the strings and piano complement each other is simply sublime: themes are repeated by one instrument just a fraction after the other, adding a whole extra level of complexity and demonstrating artisan compositional skills.

Rather Be You// Ragni EP

Whereas Minden melts into The Somnambulist, Rather Be You strikes of in a completely different direction. Accompanied by alien noises – it is impossible to discern whether the sounds are from a record player, steam, electricity, or something completely foreign. While the piano begins are the dominant instrument again, it starts to share the spotlight with an acoustic guitar. The song is another building song – maracas and shakers enter the song along with some subtle drumming, and some of the melodic instrumentation becomes more synthetic. Here vocals play a minimal role again, becoming another layer of music while the other instruments speak.

Photo

The North Sea Epoch// Ragni EP

In Ragni’s longest song, the ambiance come from the sound of wind and waves. Here, the vocals finally become distinctive. Despite Fletcher’s claim that ‘The hardest part is saying goodbye,’ he is quick to repeat the word again and again. The epoch is to which Ragni is saying goodbye to is the one where the band is lost in dreams – instead, the music drifts out into the waves, taking its final rest at sea. Guitar gains a larger role in the beginning of the song, before the vocals are overwhelmed by the sea, at which point waves of sound become almost overwhelming, and whispers from unidentifiable sources are mixed in. In the outro, another voice says “I know the road to home/ it’s not so easy,” suggesting that the 22 year old character has the option, but ultimately chooses not to leave.

Kołysanka// Ragni EP

Polish for lullaby, I imagine Kołysanka to be the song that plays as the character is reflecting on their life as they sink deeper into the sea. Subtle hints of whale-like sounds and bubbles popping are interspersed with crickets, creating an illogical rift and showing yet another disconnect from reality. Though different voices speak throughout, the Polish lullaby only comes after the sounds begin to fade away – it is the lullaby that brings on the final sleep. Throughout the song, an atmospheric buzz develops and falls away only to return, and most of the melodic elements come from a disparate array of seemingly unrelated noises that nonetheless weave a beautiful sonic tapestry. The track slowly descends into silence for the perfect closing to what is in my opinion, a perfect EP.

10/10

My biggest regret with regards to Ragni is the fact that I was never able to purchase a physical copy of their record. It is accompanied by a 72 page graphic novella by Karl Kerschel, an artist who worked on Teen Titans and Superman as well as the amazing “The Abominable Charles Christopher” that you should check out here. Some of the novella can be seen in the above video… check it.

Advertisements
Tagged with:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: