Raymond Scott Woolson, Broken Things Mend as reviewed in Phantom TollboothGenerous as this is with its minutes, Woolson should really leave us wanting more.


Randy’s Alternative Music (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

Time: 11 Tracks / 68 minutes

It is one thing to make shoegaze music and another to make it well. The soundscapes need to be just fluid enough to fit the concept and create an ambience, but there are so many fine lines to judge astutely.

On one hand, if they are too vague, interest falls away; while on the other hand, put too much detail in and the listener starts thinking of it as too repetitive or a different genre that is missing bits. Make a piece too short and the listener doesn’t get time to drift into the atmosphere, but make it too long and it gets boring.

Plenty of these tracks have good ideas and a well-judged sound. “Future Self-Portraits” has an instantly recognisable shimmering, dreamy theme, while “Every Unrequited” has an uplifting, melodic pattern. "Awake O Sleeper..." is not far away from Rubycon-era Tangerine Dream. Woolson knows how to create a spacious, breezy atmosphere.

However, sometimes that is all there is. The vague “Arda Envinyanta” has said what it needs to by half its six minute length. The longest track, “Moving Up Day” has a central section that is bookended by a main theme, but the wide bookends themselves are just a predictable three-chord bash on trebly washes that desperately need a tune over the top – or severe editing. The much shorter “Runner, Run Home” gets it about right, while even at nearly eight minutes, “When I Am Lifted Up” is also fine, if your mind is occupied.

I find this an enjoyable album while I am doing something that needs concentration, such as writing. But as soon as I do something mindless that pushes the music into the foreground, it tends to get a bit tedious.

Almost every sound is made by guitars (the back cover proudly boasts, “No guitar synthesizers or sustain devices were used”) but it would have been a better disc if more attention was paid to what is in the music, rather than what was not used to make it. Genre leaders Hammock succeed because the pair’s dreamy soundscapes are constantly, gently and kaleidoscopically in flux. Woolson’s pieces change too little (or occasionally, too violently).

The album’s cover sets the tone well – open blue skies; fresh green grass; a central object, but no real personality. The disc is too much of one thing, too often sounding like a rock album with lead and vocal tracks missing. You start getting impatient for more musical satisfaction. At half the length it would be twice as good.

Derek Walker (who normally loves ambient instrumentals)

3tocks (just)