['RAMP]: Happy Days are Here to Stay (2022)
“More ambient than pushed by sequented beats, this one goes for fans of Parsick's Doombient Universe”
1 The Last Thing he Heard 7:28
2 Future Looming Behind us 14:11
3 Mourning Glory 5:23
4 Fomalhaut 11:18
5 Happy Days are Here to Stay 13:17
6 All is Lost 8:19
7 Capsized 6:35
8 Shipwrecked 6:44
(CD/DDL 73:15) (V.F.)
That's quite some news! I thought that ['ramp] had offered its last opus with No Sleep 'til Wilmersdorf. There was indeed this Moon Musick at the very beginning of 2021, but it was an album of dark ambient music signed by Stephen Parsick. No! No news from ['ramp] since this famous No Sleep 'til Wilmersdorf which was made in spring 2018. Notice that this is not the 1st time that this has happened. Remember that nearly 5 year absence between Astral Disaster and Synchronize or Die. And then boom!!! I get this email from Stephen with a link to a new album called HAPPY DAYS ARE HERE TO STAY. Always very sarcastic with a sense of irony carried to black humor, even caustic, the man in black of electronic music (EM) titles this latest album ironizing on the fact that our planet is seriously nose diving over the last couple of years. Pandemic, new viruses, wars, an increase of famine, the fall of the economy and inflation. And yet, the good times are here to stay! But Stephen Parsick is fine. He feels in the mood to recreate the Doombient atmosphere with another album at a time when he misses his eternal companion, Klaus Hoffmann Hoock, the most. He is however very present in HAPPY DAYS ARE HERE TO STAY! If only for this mellotron with its surreal mists and mysteries, Cosmic Hoffmann's aura is everywhere around this album. Largely dominated by the mellotron and its gothic haze, its moods, solos and harmonious lines, the music is gentle and follows the chthonian tangents of Tangerine Dream's early Virgin-era works. Don't expect rhythmic explosions like we've heard on albums like Steel and Steam or Return. HAPPY DAYS ARE HERE TO STAY is the equivalent of Synchronize or Die between the 5 years that separate it from Astral Disaster.
The first harmonic glimmers of The Last Thing he Heard have something to surprise. The mellotron blows tunes that strangely remind me of the musical poetry of Kitaro in Revelation, a title from the album Ki. The fluty melody brings us into another dimension of ['ramp]. The texture is definitely more harmonious, even poignant with this tune that obsesses the senses. Senses that wonder where this fascinating melodic aura comes from. I'm a big fan of this Kitaro era, but it took me a few listens before I made the connection. Harmonious and ambient, The Last Thing he Heard shifts this melody to a vibrating organ layer that opens Future Looming Behind us. An eerie opening if ever there was one with an unsettling darkness that sails for nearly 80 seconds. After that, the sequencer activates a sequenced bass line that bounces 5 minimalist chords. They gambol with nuance in the rubbery effect of their black tones, even accentuating this flow that espouses a 70's Berlin School structure. It's a very conservative ['ramp] here that just rolls a rhythm that buzzes and echoes in your ears while lulling in that haunting melody that the mellotron has been singing since the opening of The Last Thing he Heard. Intonations and emotional variations included. Mourning Glory layers a beautiful Mephistophelian nature with a dominant mellotron song, creating a transcendental universe where the musical corridors intersect and uncross in a fascinating mutualism full of enchanting paradoxes. Here again, the emotionality of these nebulous astral songs is to be cut with a knife!
The introduction of Fomalhaut brings us back to the Rubycon and Phaedra years of TD. This is mellotron on mellotron! It is divine and floats above a panorama also sculpted on the vibratory waves of a mellotron. The cutting of the ambiences also vaguely reminds the introduction of Silver Scale. The track crumbles its 11 minutes with an atmospheric vision that is nuanced by phases of more intense gothic melodies. The title-track is the second, and last, to offer a rhythmic structure in the album. Its rhythm is stealthy. It beats dully in a murky opening with that mellotron that evacuates a sordid air of abandonment. Discrete keyboard chords play a ghostly melody that counterbalances the dark textural ambiences of this rhythm that drones and resonates as much as in Future Looming Behind us but without its velocity. There's a slight Middle Eastern flavor to the hazy mellotron chants, adding a bit of sensuality to the paranormal waves of HAPPY DAYS ARE HERE TO STAY. Next, ['ramp] offers 3 tracks and nearly 22 minutes of shadowy ambiences that are sculpted and guided by the mellotron. Between elegiac inspirations and tenebrous orations, Capsized is the most intense of these 3 tracks whereas Shipwrecked was all destined to conclude this comeback (is it?) album of ['ramp] which does not invent anything, does not reinvent itself but remains nevertheless in its axis of nobility. For aficionados of Stephen Parsick's Doombient signature, of Tangerine Dream from the Ricochet to Stratosfear years and of the gothic Berlin School of the 70's.
Sylvain Lupari (September 1st, 2022) *****