Just the other day, a package arrived at my door. A package with some goods I’ve really been looking forward to getting. In it was This Patch Of Sky new album, Set and Setting album, and then also the new album from Ranges, The Ascensionist. The Ascensionist is really a cool package, not only do you get the beautiful vinyl, but you also get an extra textbook and a slipmat for your record player. How cool is that?
So first things first, put the slipmat on my record player, off course. Next up, put the record on, make sure no one else is around, so I have time and place to dive all in on The Ascensionist.
I have previously reviewed some of the songs from The Ascensionist and also some of the earlier stuff from Ranges, and I am pretty awed by all the songs I’ve listened to this far. So it’s with great anticipation I am putting the record on, hoping for just a good an album as these previous singles from the album. Can they pull it off?
Let’s dive in.
The Ascensionist opens beautifully like a morning rise from the foot of a mountain, enjoying its majesty, getting ready for the journey. The wind is blowing and calm, almost meditative. A warm synth lays the foundation of what to come. Then a simple guitar melody accompanied with unison piano. It’s quiet and it’s a remarkable and fulfilling mood to set off a record with.
After that Sevens Sisters kicks in with more power and again simple melodies, but only for a short while, before vaporizing to a dusty electronic sphere of tape saturated elegance. When drums and clean guitars kick in, the atmosphere melts together to a whole. Seven Sisters somewhat reminds me of Band of Horses combined with post-rock. It’s light, it’s uplifting, its arms to the sky and happy faces. When put in the world of the ascensionist, this would be the point where our traveler, meets the first perfect sight of the seven majestic mountains before him.
The title song has already been reviewed here. There’s a really cool video accompanying this song.
Called Not to a new Religion, but to life opens with swells that sound somewhat like a lap steel guitar. This guitar combined with the drum beats and chord progression gives a feeling of alt.country and definitely has some of the warm and dusty feelings of bands like Sparklehorse, Songs: Ohia and Bonnie Prince Billy. 3 minutes in, the song changes to what one could call the main theme. This is a trademark of Ranges. Finding that sweet spot, that memorable melody, and let it stand out. This is what happening on this song again, where it’s first the guitar that takes the melody line and then the piano to follow it up with subtlety.
The Greater Lights is next up, and have already been reviewed separately here.
The Inner Journey
The Lesser Lights picks up where The Greater Lights ended and lures the listener with chimes, glitter and a dark embrace before the drilling guitars take full throttle with wide open chords. The Lesser Lights is the first time on The Ascensionist where Ranges are showing their teeth. It works really well, to have a slight aggression at this point and at the same time let some melancholy in. This is definitely what happens here when the song slows down, to a simple delayed guitar figure only accompanied by that signature dusty saturated sound that is more and more becoming an evidence of the ‘Ranges sound’. The Lesser Lights invites the listener to inner reflections and complete bliss. When the album is called the Ascensionist, and the cover is indeed a mountain, it’s hard not to get associations to this theme and my inner movie gives pictures of the ascensionist being halfway through and meeting the struggles of completion. The breakdown where an abandoned journey is not that far from happening.
Seven Veils picks up beautifully where The Lesser Lights faded. Seven Veils keeps the melancholic atmosphere and enhances this with a beautiful guitar theme. Guess it is slow tapping, with a nice tape speed effect. This effect is kept on the guitar throughout the song, while strong reverberated guitars float in the background. The song slowly builds up, with drums intensifying and screaming guitar drills before disappearing softly.
In the Arms of Kings and Gods is initially massive, but shortly after changes character to a more quiet mood before it reawakens with long wailing guitars and staccato feeling. Everything is grand, eclectic and euphoric, especially when the subtle melodies kick in just below the roaring guitars at around 2:50. In The Arms of Kings, gives that feeling of standing almost atop the mountain, gazing over the other mountains, the other kings.
It’s the morning after the party and the euphoria. The last long streak before the goal is at hand. Babylon The Great ( Part I ) is picturesque, one can imagine the ascensionist finally reaching the top, with all the mixed feelings that come with that. The achievement done, The Grief over it’s done and not the least the inner bliss that lies as a warm embrace.
I’m pretty new to Ranges, I didn’t know their back catalog, but after listening to that and then comparing to their new release The Ascensionist, I must admit that Ranges have made a giant leap forward. The Ascensionist is right to the point. Well written songs, each with a strong focus on memorable melodies that burns right into the listener’s mind.
It’s hard to pick favorite songs off The Ascensionist, the whole album is just put so well together and the flow of the album makes it a sin not to listen to it as a whole. If I should pick some out it should be The Lesser Lights and Seven Veils.
Ranges are not your typical post-rock build-up band. I’ve mentioned it before and I will restate exactly that. Ranges might be post-rock, yes. But they draw energy and inspiration from many other genres to pull off their warm and embracing kind of post-rock. I still hear Mercury Rev and Sparklehorse in Ranges music, but I also hear Band of Horses, early Grandaddy, and War on Drugs.
All these musical influences are melted perfectly together on The Ascensionist and this album has without any doubt made it to my personal ‘Best post-rock albums of 2017’ list. Well done.
Another refreshing detail about Ranges is, that while many post-rock rock bands are thriving for more brutal, disharmonic and dark sounds, much inspired by the post-metal and post-black scene, Ranges does quite the opposite. Ranges are uplifting, embracing the light and does not have a single ounce of this brutality in them. That is refreshing and I hope Ranges will keep that sound.
You can also buy and stream the album on Bandcamp