Saturday, May 22, 2010

Ramleh



















Ramleh - Valediction
Second Layer CD.
Ramleh’s ‘rock’ period was always a bigger draw for me than their power electronics stuff. I remember driving down to the South coast one summer with their Homeless CD cranked up and it made a humdrum drive down the M1 in a rented Fiesta feel like an American coast to coast odyssey in an open top 50’s Cadillac. The swirling chugging chords, the pounding drums and the tortured vocals of the classic 18 minute title track ran on repeat for most of that journey - an endless loop of head nodding churn, a droning rock mantra that only ended when I ran out of road in Eastbourne.
Ramleh’s uncompromising attitude coupled with art work that featured autopsies, SS officers, serial killers, electric chairs and track titles like Fistfuck got them noticed. Like their much admired counterparts in the nascent English Power Electronics scene Whitehouse, they liked to shock. And then they disappeared only to return in the 90’s in a ‘rock’ format and thats what did it for me. And then they disappeared again. Band members came and went but founder and mentor Gary Mundy remained a constant and highly influential figure.
Twenty eight years on from their first release Mundy teams up with Anthony Di Franco to give us Valediction. Advances in recorded technology results in a sound thats as far removed from the early cassette days as its possible to get. Its a big, meaty sound that you cant fail to be impressed by. The vitriol and misanthropy that power electronics so intrinsically wound itself around is still obviously there [open the gatefold case up and you’re met with the words ‘you people are poison’] as is the aggression, the screaming feedback, the anguished vocals. It’s an impressive sound. Gone though are the corpses and SS officers to be replaced by images of a headless, limbless statues covered in moss, crumbling, abandoned hospitals.
There are six tracks - each a Valediction. Valediction IV is the standout track; a thundering, runaway, distorted two chord bass riff that dissolves into a shitstorm of noise dissonance. Mundy scowls all over the first half of it, the words buried under a slather of incessant skree. Impressive and a track that appeals to the rock side of Ramleh thats in me but then there’s the rest of it which is where I start to have problems.
How do you keep a genre such as power electronics alive when its so easily formulated, copied and maligned? Its a hard job which Mundy and Di Franco succeed with but only because they have the utmost pedigree and this is a good PE release, don’t get me wrong, there’s very little on here that wont have your average PE freak slathering at the chops.
I have my caveats though, Valediction IV sounds so much like the rumblings that underpin most of Whitehouse’s Quality Time that its uncanny. The rest is fine PE but its sounds no better or worse than what Whitehouse were doing in ’95 and therein lies the problem; where do you go with PE? What is there left to do? How much misanthropy can you dish out without it becoming stale and predictable? How much alienation does it take for the message to sink in? Question: How many serial killers does it take to make a PE cover? Answer: one’ll do. Whitehouse have evolved out of PE to such an extent that Bennett now finds himself alone with his African drums. As new outfits clamor to take PE to their heart and wallow in it it seems that those who pioneered it keep it at arms length. Happy with their work they leave the genre behind for others to mutate. What next? Where’s it all going to end up? At least we have the reissues to look forward to. Maybe the answer lies with the title? Valediction, it mean goodbye dunnit.

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