Rameses III Honey Rose

[Important; 2007]

Rating: 3/5

Styles: ambient guitar, instrumental soundscapes, atmospheric soundtracks, free folk
Others: A Small, Good Thing; Bruce Langhorne; Lanterna; Scenic

Rameses III’s 2006 Important Records release, Honey Rose, might be described, for lack of a better term, as “Midwestern ambient.” This six-track EP from the South London trio contains two longer tracks in the five- to 10-minute range, and four shorter pieces between less than one minute and barely three minutes in length. They were reportedly composed and recorded as a series of themes for a short English film, entitled Suityman, from filmmaker Jon Spira. The CD’s cover art consists of still images from the film, featuring little more than windswept fields of undulating wheat or hops, and an eerie, blurred, black-suit-clad figure standing among them. Whether this film exists in celluloid form or is simply a fabricated vehicle upon which Rameses III’s record is predicated, the imagery is a singularly appropriate complement to these euphoric and pastoral pieces. The elegant slide guitar, lap steel, and semi-distorted guitar strumming act in conjunction with the most meditative and inordinately restrained synth washes this side of Brian Eno. The music is also heavily laden with environmental found sounds (bird song, rain, rolling thunder, etc.) that enable the album to achieve a richly evocative and idyllic cadence.

Though each track on Honey Rose tends to employ a similar motif in the form of analogous minimalist chord progressions and melodic figures, a diversity of instrumentation in the band’s sonic palette adds a much welcome level of variegation. A few of these pieces, such as “Theme Five,” employ a subtle flute melody that implies vaguely Native American spiritual overtones. Some tracks lean more heavily on keyboard ambience for effect, while others, such as “Theme Six,” are composed mainly of acoustic guitar and banjo chords, which broaden the album's scope with a somewhat rustic quality. “Theme Two” features barely noticeable vocals atop several layers of guitar textures in varying degrees of substance and contrasting levels of distortion.

Honey Rose is a slight, spare recording that seems designed mainly for subtlety and atmospheric effect, as if composed for a heartfelt and low-key documentary. These delicate tracks are structured in such a way as to culminate in reasonably non-invasive mood music, and they achieve their intended purpose. On the downside, the record seems both too brief and too unrealized. Rameses III’s gorgeous, shimmering textures have an uplifting, albeit temporary, effect upon the listener, but Honey Rose is ultimately a short, ephemeral trip that fails to leave the lasting impression that you wish it would.

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