Compulsion | PO Box 19577 | Kilbarchan |Johnstone | PA10 2WX | Scotland | UK




Ramleh - Circular Time
Ramleh - Circular Time cover In our rather cursory review of Valediction, which at the time was their first full length release in 12 years we commented that we eagerly awaited a release when Ramleh would pick up their guitars again. We didn't think it would be a further 6 years and that Circular Time would be their first album in their rock formation in something like twenty years. Ramleh are perhaps better known for their electronic noise work. That early work as key instigators in the power electronics genre, along with associated Broken Flag label releases, was expertly documented by noise publication As Loud As Possible. Recently, however, it's been heartening to see the noise unit of Ramleh and erstwhile member Philip Best's Consumer Electronics project finally receiving plaudits for their work in the likes of Noisey and The Quietus. But truth be told, Ramleh have been doing this warped psych-rock thing for years. Between 1990 and 1997 there were sporadic singles and albums released on Broken Flag through UK labels such as Shock, Dying Earth, Freek Records and US labels including Sympathy For The Record Industry and Majora. I can't remember when Ramleh first started operating in rock circles but it was at some point around the Shock releases with the single 'Slammers' and accompanying Blowhole album I became acquainted with their mutated rock form. At one point members, Stuart Dennison, Anthony Di Franco and Gary Mundy, were flitting between Ramleh and Skullflower - who saw their first single and debut album appear on Broken Flag. But all that was over twenty years ago. Today the current electronic noise version of Ramleh comprise Broken Flag label owner Gary Mundy with Anthony Di Franco (AX, JFK) while this version, what Mundy referred to The Quietus as the "guitar-bass-drums version" additionally features Martyn Watts who manned the drums alongside Mundy in the indie rock outfit Breathless. Got all that?

Circular Time is a sprawling double CD set of their warped take on rock but it's been captured with such clarity and with a drive and forcefulness absent from their earlier recordings in this field. On those earlier rock recordings Ramleh often fixated on sustained monolithic riffing mixed with Mundy's distant wails and Best's aggro-shouts but Circular Time draws on drone, noise, and electronics throwing up some unexpected twists with sidesteps into post-punk and prog rock. In the main though Circular Time hovers around their psych-rock mutations best described as bleak psychedelia.

And yet they almost wrongfoot the listener with the acoustic strum of the opener 'Re-entry' before it bursts into blistering cacophonic layers of soaring guitar, distant hollered voices, with some muscular drumming. Each wave is directed towards the void. It's a precipice Ramleh have long looked over, but they've never been as powerfully intense as they are on 'Re-Entry'. The opener is up there with some of their finer moments like the 'Slammers' and '8 Ball Corner Pocket' singles. 'Incubator' surges with a psychedelic angle in its howling wall of sound akin to something like Robert Fripp fronting Hawkwind. The distant voices shrouded in echo, which appear throughout Circular Time, form another layer in the ferocious noise surge propelled by Watts's forceful rhythms.

While most attention will focus on the guitars, Watts's drumming on Circular Time is a joy to behold. His dexterity and expressive drumming certainly helps to propel much of this. The unfettered guitar squall of 'Renaissance Warfare', opening the second disc, is let loose over a swarm of buzz and guitar scorch with rhythms which take on a tribal drumming approach. Watts also provides some stunning cyclical drum work on 'Liberty Bell' which with its motorik sequences forms a mesmerising electronic meditation. Drenched in mystical drones, it highlights a prog rock influence with an atmospheric sound, honing in on Tangerine Dream styled German electronics.

Casting wide their influences and inspirations, 'Liberty Bell' segues effortlessly into the scratchy angular guitar mannerisms of 'The Tower'. "How does your ego structure hold up?" they ask over Di Franco's hypnotic dub rhythms. This is Ramleh channelling Public Image Limited channelling Can. Surprising? Maybe but it's as dark and despondent as Lydon's wailings from Metal Box. "Tell me what to think, Tell me what to feel" they chant, before continuing "Can you feel it through the meds?" Hardened Ramleh listeners will know that their vocals are usually mixed way down but here it's one of a few select tracks on Circular Time which sees the Ramleh styled vocals pushed uncharacteristically to the fore and it's another standout on Circular Time.

Watts is absent from a couple of tracks. On 'Entropy', Ramleh settle into shimmering guitar drone mannerisms akin to tracks on Homeless. Its restrained atmospherics miles apart, too many miles apart even, from the blissed out blast of bass heavy and feedback laden distortion of 'Weird Tyranny', found towards the end of the second disc, which creates an unremitting drumless wall of droning blurred atmospherics. It is closer in sound to the billowing drone noise of the third track of their previous noise album Valediction. Powerful and controlled its electrified sheets of dissonance are simply stunning.

Circular Time offers more surprises on 'American Womanhood' which unwinds from the start to some shimmering bluesy guitar anchored to distorted bass throb and rhythmic drum fill. It's more spacious and restrained, taking on a more prog rock influence as the guitar hovers and weave melodic layers around the bass pulse, before slipping into samples of an interview with a Richard Pacheco associated porn starlet. Those tapes are almost a throwback to their power electronics days, and certainly the first I've heard since their Be Careful What You Wish For album.

From an interplay of stuttering electronics and cymbals, 'St John Of The Cross' is sucked up into a vortex of searing blackened histrionics crafted from sculpted guitar against a blistering noise undercurrent more akin to the electronic onslaught found on Valediction while 'The Ascent' rather than set the controls for the heart of the void opts for an epic improvised workout where arcs of controlled feedback jostle with distorted bass and heavy handed rhythms. At points Di Franco's bass even recalls the limbering scale ascending tones of his solo project JFK on 'Sexodus'. While 'The Ascent' hits the spot the straightforward outré rock of 'The March' falters and 'Flamen Dialis', one of the other improvised workouts on Circular Time is less than impressive. It's unfocussed meanderings ensures it, along with 'The March' remain the only weak spots on Circular Time.

It doesn't really matter though. In an album just shy of a 2-hour duration mark, Ramleh are on top of their game with an album of drone infused and powerfully scorching psychedelic guitars and brutal electronics absorbing elements of post-punk, prog rock, and naturally noise. And it really doesn't get better than the closing 'Never Returner' which almost acts as a juncture between the noise rock of eighties compatriots Terminal Cheesecake, Splintered and Skullflower with the indie vocal fronted psychedelics of Loop, Spacemen 3 and My Bloody Valentine. Mundy's billowing arcs of blackened psychedelia slope around the rhythmic thrust of distorted bass and drums. "You're nothing" they intone in downer mode, as 'Never Returner' is furnished with a new found sense of melodiousness. As acoustic strum reappears towards the end it seems after years in the shadows Ramleh look from the void to stake their claim to their much deserved place in avant rock circles.

Circular Time is a timely reminder of Ramleh's sporadic sojourns into warped rock forms. Their influence in the power electronics genre is guaranteed but with regard to their rock formation this along with their earlier forays into the genre shouldn't be underestimated. Circular Time is by far their most intense release finding space to accommodate both melody and dissonance within their massively psych-drenched rock sound. What sets Circular Time apart from their earlier releases is the clarity and definition of sound; there's little here that is formless, unfocussed or muddied. Sprawling and stunning in equal measures, Circular Time is nothing short of essential listening. Circular Time is released by Crucial Blast. Recommended. For more information go to Crucial Blast or Broken Flag store

Ramleh - 'Re-Entry' from Circular Time, Video directed by Dominic F. Marceau



Subscribe
Receive our monthly news digest mailouts

New Interview: Tunnels of ĀH

The former Head of David singer, Stephen ĀH Burroughs expands on the influence of Gnosticism, Buddhism and mystic Christianity on the stunning post-industrial albums Lost Corridors and Thus Avici.

New Interview: Danny Hyde

Danny Hyde looks back on working with Coil, remixing Nine Inch Nails and his subsequent work with Peter Christopherson, in addition to his projects Aural Rage and Electric Sewer Age.

New Interview: Hirsute Pursuit

Created by Harley Phoenix and his musical partner Bryin Dall, Hirsute Pursuit create Gay Sex Music that offers no apologies. We caught up with Harley Phoenix to discover more about this provocative outfit, behind the stunning albums That Hole Belongs To Me and Tighten That Muscle Ring, which featured contributions from Boyd Rice and Peter Christopherson.

NEW REVIEWS:
Kruzenshtern I Parohod With Eugene S. Robinson - Hidden Album Volume II
ACL - Holy Ghost
Colossloth - Outstretch Your Hand For The Impress Of Truth
Ramleh - Circular Time
Anemone Tube - Golden Temple
Z'EV - Eleven Mirrors To The Light
Last Dominion Lost - Snowdrops From A Curate's Garden
Drew McDowall - Collapse
Cultural Amnesia - Bad Meditation
Hijokaidan - Emergency Stairway To Heaven
Pefkin - Liminal Rites
Coil - Backwards
Rose McDowall - Cut With The Cake Knife
Leslie Winer / CM von Hausswolff - (1)
Thighpaulsandra - The Golden Communion
Sion Orgon - Recognition Journal
Sol - Where Suns Come To Die
Attrition - Millions of the Mouthless Dead
Khost - Corrosive Shroud
Othon - Cobra Coral
Devon Loch - Sleep Scale
Ela Orleans - Upper Hell
Tunnels of ĀH - Thus Avici
Psychic/PTV3 - Snakes
Konstruktivists - Destiny Drive
Skullflower - Draconis
Legendary Pink Dots - 10 To The Power of 9
English Heretic - The Underworld Service
Pefkin - Inner Circle Outer Circle
Khost - Copper Lock Hell
The Nothing Machine - NMTRv2
Northumbria & Famine - Blood Orchid
Human Greed - World Fair
Blood Bright Star - The Silver Head
Protection - The 10" EP
Last Dominion Lost - Towers of Silence
Krank/The Grimsel Path - Verdant Hum
Trepaneringsritualen - Perfection & Permanence
Othon - Pineal
Burial Hex - In Psychic Defense
Theme - No Emotions Catered For
Shift - Altamont Rising
André Foisy - The End of History
Coil/Nine Inch Nails - Recoiled
D.Å.R.F.D.H.S. - Det Stora Oväsendet
D.Å.R.F.D.H.S. - Det Stora Oväsendet (Remixes)
Brennendes Gehirn & Dorian Williamson - Rites of the Aethyr
Stefan Jaworzyn - EP1
Stefan Jaworzyn - EP2
Ela Orleans and Skitter - De Fléchettes
Psychic TV - Hacienda
Psychic TV - Thee Fabulous Feast Ov Flowering Light
Psychic TV - Live At Thee Marquee
Kentin Jivek & Miro Snejdr - Voir Dire
Brian Conniffe / Suzanne Walsh / Diarmuid Macdiarmada - Landslide
Quttinirpaaq - Let's Hang Out
zoviet*france: - The Tables Are Turning
Tunnels of ĀH - Lost Corridors
Paul Ferris - Witchfinder General OST
English Heretic - Anti-Heroes
Splintered - Turned Inside Out
Compound Eye - Journey FromAnywhere
Bjarni Gunnarsson - Processes & Potentials
Wicked King Wicker - Evolving
Nikolas Schreck - The Manson File
Factrix/Control Unit - Elegy For Rusted Souls
High Aura'd/Blood Bright Star
Skullflower/Mastery - Skullflower/Mastery
David E. Williams - Trust No Scaffold Built of This Bone
Bestial Mouths - Bestial Mouths
Dream Into Dust - So Beautiful And So Dangerous
Iron Fist Of The Sun - Who Will Help Me Wash My Right Hand
JFK - La Bas 1987-1992
The Bleeding Peasant Orchestra - Sanctuary and Truce
Death In June - The Snow Bunker Tapes
Ela Orleans - Tumult In Clouds
Mekon - Piece of Work
Psychic TV/PTV3 - Silver Sundown Machine
Ax - Metal Forest
Edward Ka-Spel - Tanith And The Lion Tree
English Heretic - Black Harvest
Radio Werewolf - The Vinyl Solution
Sickness Of Snakes - Nightmare Culture
Adam Ant is The BlueBlack Hussar In Marrying The Gunner's Daughter
Black Sun Roof - Feral
Andrew Poppy - Shiny Floor Shiny Ceiling
Sion Orgon - Into The Dark
BMX Bandits - BMX Bandits In Space
Boyd Rice/NON - Back To Mono
Peggy Sue Play the Songs of Scorpio Rising
Eugene S. Robinson & Philippe Petit - Last Of The Dead Hot Lovers
Electroscope - Diapause
Strings of Consciousness - From Beyond Love
Schuster - The Circle of Angst
O.O.O. - A Presence
Naevus - The Division of Labour
JK Flesh - Posthuman
Locrian & Mamiffer - Bless Them That Curse You
Lull & Beta Cloud & Andrew Liles - Circadian Rhythm Disturbance Reconfigured
Valley of Fear - Valley of Fear
ASVA & Philippe Petit - Empires Should Burn
Burial Hex - Book of Delusions
Sutcliffe Jugend - With Extreme Prejudice
Z'ev and Nick Parkin - The Ascending Scale
Carter Tutti Void - Transverse
Mark Stewart - The Politics of Envy
Psychic TV/PTV3 - Mother Sky Vs Alien Sky
Skullflower - Fucked On A Pile Of Corpses
Psychic TV - Themes box set

Book review: The Manson File

The Manson File cover Extensive review of Nikolas Schreck's The Manson File: Myth And Reality of An Outlaw Shaman, summing up 25 years research into the Charles Manson phenomenon. If you thought you knew the true story of the Manson murders or thought you knew Charles Manson, Nikolas Schreck will make you think again.

Copyright ©