Elegant, diverse and distinct, the arctic vitality of Thomas Ragsdale’s ‘Bait’ - whose origins arose as the soundtrack to the Dominic Brunt film of the same name - tells a solemn and in places disquieting tale that stands well on its own, riddled with delicate nuance and a hyperborean conviction. With tracks such as ‘Who Holds The Devil, Hold Him Well’ acting as a somewhat blissful introduction to the inevitably weighty and emotive chronicle that is to follow, immediately from the launch of this sonic anthology we are met with an intricacy and persuasion inclined towards that of rapturous energy. We are enticed deeper into the mellifluous warrens of Ragsdale’s dulcet environment as ‘Warning Mass’ seeks to lock our attentiveness with denser noisescapes and lacunar chords of pensive sureness, thus demonstrating the perfection of temper held throughout the album’s entirety.
American composer Blake Ewing has been quietly producing ambient and classical works for years, getting his incredible music supported by the likes of Ford, Netflix and AMC. His website states he ‘believes in music – and in its wonderful power to support and elevate storytelling.’ His latest offering ‘The Scenery Of Somewhere Else’, not only supports and elevates storytelling, but brings its own magical story to life.
The fading opening of ‘You took the first breath’ brings the listener to a lakeside, shimmering under the golden rays of sun that beam down in the evening sunset. From the opening of the track, we feel a juxtaposition of warm, sweeping pads, and the gentle piano notes that pierce the texture, bringing cooling shivers from the breeze, above the suns gentle warmth. Ewing uses each and every chord change to walk us around the lake, bringing us ever closer to the ‘somewhere else’ suggested in the title.
We arrive there in track 2, ‘The day is dying’ with its introduction of faster moving strings. While we are obviously in similar territory, the strings introduce a new element onto the pads from track 1. They expand throughout, with the shrill high end of the string bringing in sunlight through gaps in the branches of the trees, that still sway from the piano that is now underneath. The piano makes it return at the end, gently becoming the only instrument left, to make literal the title, as it relies on its strong imagery of the day quite literally dying.
In ‘Of all the words you said’, we move away from the layout of the previous songs. It opens with an otherworldly, breathy, pan-pipe/flute sound, that gives a perfectly timed contrast to the fading pads. While the previous tracks have given a vibrant image of sunset, this track seems to represent a sunrise, without losing its incredible visual imagery. The pinnacle comes around halfway through from a quiet suspended cymbal roll, that leads into a genuinely majestic climax, bringing through every idea formed so far in the album. The sun emerges fully from beneath the trees and hills, revealing its self to everyone, before the abrupt cut that leads us questioning, without any form of resolution.
The last track, ‘As bright as your memories’ seems to depart the sunrise/sunset idea to begin with, giving a darker ending to the album. Parts fade in and out above a low cello note in the introduction, that is left fully solo for a while. Even though it lasts a mere second, the listener feels vulnerable, exposed and empty, before the warmth of sunlight finally returns to us, avoiding being left too long without it’s gentle heat. Calming final notes bring us to a firm ending of this journey, as the sun sets for a final time.
It’s a special gift to be able to take such a journey in under 10 minutes, but Ewing manages it in this fantastic album. He manages to bring an ethereal tone to each track, while providing contrast at exactly the right time so as not to let anything get stale and it’s exciting to see what he can produce in the future
Written by Dan Peeke