It’s been some time since our last Label Watch communiqué, and approaching the midway point through 2023, this is actually our first one of the year. Yes, it probably gets trotted out far too often around here, but as the old adage goes: too much music, not enough hours…
However, a good two months of 2023 has been spent absorbing the delights of the next candidate for this feature.
Ramble Records first came to our attention in December last year after the release of droneroom’s final 2022 release, The Most Gorgeous Sleep (the label has since released the equally wonderful Rusted Lung last month). From there, the customary search down the rabbit hole ensued, and, well… the rest is history.
Founded by Michael Sill during the first lockdown in 2020, the Melbourne label is niche personified, with a heavy emphasis on outsider culture and the possibility of reaching every inch of the planet being at the core of their philosophy.
While the origin of psychedelia is essentially the lifeblood of the label, the cascading effects are wonderful, with the spirit of acoustic-based experimentalism, avant jazz, afrobeat, drone and Indian classical all embodying this ever-increasing catalogue of new music.
Approaching 150 releases in almost three years, the sheer volume of vinyl in particular almost defies belief. Yes, it’s almost Cruel Nature standards, and while many only have enough time for one label of Cruel Nature’s monolithic scale, the truth is that each Ramble Records release is too good to pass up.
With vinyl is fundamental to the label, Still began to co-release with other like-minded labels across the world. Again, this feeds into the no borders mission statement the label stands by, teaming up with the likes of Echodelick Records, Tall Grass Records, Riot City, Black Editions, Feeding Tube Records, Moonlight Cypress Archetypes, Home & Garden, and many more.
While there are several notable omissions below, the length of time it has taken to pull this feature together is simply down to agonising over each release and whittling the list down to 10. In any case, over the last several months, the below releases have been etched into the Ramble Records story, and while there are many who don’t feature, I urge to you to go through the label’s catalogue with a fine tooth comb.
With members hailing from the United States, Mexico, Japan, and West Africa, both via idea and sound, Austin-based Cazayoux are the tourism of sound that stitches together the patchwork of Ramble Records.
Founded by drummer Forest Cazayoux, following their wonderful 2022 EP Rendezvous, the collective make it a short turnaround with their self-titled full-length. With an unbridled, infectious energy, essentially this is Afro funk psychedelia where bad vibes are strictly not permitted. Just smile, dance and your troubles will evaporate in no time.
Cazayoux is a rainbow coalition of sound that proves mightily difficult to shift from the turntable platter. And with summer on its way, I don’t see that changing any time soon.
Cut Beetlex Quartet: Boom Free
Acts like Cut Beetlex Quartet and albums like Boom Free are the kind that every independent label needs under their roof.
The Finnish duo of H.P Lovescratch and DJ J-Man draft in saxophone veteran Rodney Chapman, aka Godfather Don (William Parker, Eric Plaks, Vijay Anderson) to accompany them on several tracks on Boom Free, and while perhaps better known for their work in the world of hip-hop, here they’ve created the soundtrack to smoke-filled jazz clubs in the early hours…
Well, perhaps not quite. This could also be considered avant-jazz for candle light dinners. Don’t get me wrong, there’s enough swing to get you twirling around the lounge room after dessert, but by and large, this is a lovely proposition that we all needs in our lives from time to time.
Matthew Himes: Hemlot and Bergamot
Minnesota native, Matthew Himes, creates the sort of world that’s mysterious, gloomy, yet hopeful.
Some may call it the sound of life as we know it, however on the first album released under his own name, Hemlot and Bergamot manages to dig beyond the normal surface levels many of us operate on.
This is cosmic meanderings from the back porch watching the sun disappear behind the mountains. While the echoes Bill Fay spring to mind, Himes produces a vibe more tailored for the campfire. Think Alan Sparhawk jamming with Jackie O Motherfucker as Paul Buchanan hovers over the flames sipping a glass of fine red in contemplation.
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MV & EE: Green Ark
Matt Valentine and Erika Elder have been guiding their listeners through wonderful cosmic portals for years now, and with the help from Coot Moon on bass/drums, with Green Ark they take us on another blissful journey.
While some may be put off by its length (well over the hour mark), Green Ark unfurls with the kind of grooves that are simply too good to ignore.
Filled with protracted dub-inspired jams and a good amount of raga and psychedelic splendour, Green Ark is the kind of record to pulls you out of the abyss. In many ways and as mad as it sounds, it’s like an alternative version to Primal Scream’s Echo Dek. Once again, Valentine and Elder produce standalone cosmic vibes that reveal something new every time you listen.
Naujawanan Baidar: Khedmat Be Khalq
Afghan-American project, Naujawanan Baidar, returns with their first new music in three years with Khedmat Be Khalq.
With a friction that develops between the margins of minimalism and maximalism, Naujawanan Baidar captures a raw vigour throughout these recordings. With megaphone-like vocals, hand claps, melodious riffs and shifting rhythms, on Khedmat Be Khalq Naujawanan Baidar bring to life the street level hustle and bustle that explodes with civic vital, including a re-arrangement of the Afghan folk classic Raftim Az Ayn Baagh.
And of course there’s the drone, which is the thread that holds it all together during this hypnotic kraut-rock inspired psychadelic feast. A release that stirs up barren terrains, and the ensuing dust is of the gold variety.
Robin Nitram: Sugar Free
Parisian guitarist Robin Nitram’s latest album, Sugar Free, is almost the final piece of the Ramble Records puzzle.
With eight songs clocking in at just over 30 minutes, the French experimentalist is the architect of beautiful improv’ jazz sketches that melt the heart. Such as the skeletal, nomadic vibe to Nitram’s creations, you can almost envisage the space of a tiny Parisian apartment containing barely any furniture in which these songs were written.
Undoubtedly all about the vibe, Sugar Free is a record to let wash over you. Those who have fallen in love with the latest records from jazz guitar veteran, Bill Frisell, well… those who say you can’t fall in love twice are simply telling lies.
Seven Rivers of Fire: Way of the Pilgrim
Coming to our attention last September via the Cornwall-based label Dub Cthonic, Severn Rivers of Fire mark a timely vinyl release with Way of the Pilgrim.
The project from Durban, South Africa’s William Randles, while new music has followed since (the January release of Sanctuary), Way of the Pilgrim is the entry point into a world of raga-inspired chant.
Randles produces the kind of chants and drones that Six Organs of Admittance’s Ben Chasny may come to write in the coming years. For now, though, under his Severn Rivers of Fire moniker, Randles fills that particular void, providing a vital escapism with these four compositions.
Slow Clarity: Holding Pattern
Slow Clarity is the duo of Steve Palmer and Matt Beachy, and together the Minnesota natives manage to seamlessly combine the worlds of acid folk and drone.
Not as we know it, though. On their latest record, Holding Pattern, the pair instil a tenderness throughout the cross-pollination of these sound worlds, and from the opening cut, In the Bramble each composition naturally bleeds into the next.
Holding Pattern is the kind of modest record everyone needs in their sonic cache. No frills, easy on the ear, and presented with an unbridle confidence and virtuosity, making it a fine addition to the Ramble Records family.
Son of Buzzi: Die Hand der Riesin
The thing about labels like Ramble Records is their street-level quality. There’s nothing showy about their artists, with the love of music transcending everything else.
Sebastian Bischoff is another under the wing of the Melbourne label. A mechanical engineer by day, atmospheric guitar noodler by night, under his Son of Buzzi moniker, the Zürich-based Bischoff dispenses the kind of contemplative acid folk which, whatever your poison may be, is designed for comedowns or quiet weekend mornings. Son of Buzzi carves out a series of lovely guitar sketches on Die Hand der Riesin that fall somewhere in the middle of William Tyler and Steve Gunn.
Playing his 12 string guitar, it enables Bischoff to roam a little further afield, and with Die Hand der Riesin he takes the listener along for the journey. A wonderful, freeing adventure that illuminates the simplicities of life.
Ramdatt: Maat Mons
Formed as a trio during the spring of 2016 in Athens Greece, Ramdatt, consisting of Viktor Karamanis (wind instruments), Giannis Arapis (guitar), and Vangelis Dimos (drums) added a fourth member, Dimitris Ventourakis (keyboard), 12 months later.
Influenced by anything from noise rock to free jazz, on their latest LP, Maat Mons, Ramdatt take us on a journey through the orbits. As clarinet drifts in and out of frenetic percussion, medieval guitar licks and video game inspired bleeps, this is meandering form-free jazz that could easily play out on the big screen.
Whilst different in vibe, Ramdatt’s Maat Mons proves a nice foil for the aforementioned Cut Beetlex Quartet. Listening to both records back to back, and you suddenly realise that you’ve spent half the day with a smile on your face.
For more information on Ramble Records:
Previous Label Watch features:
Cruel Nature Records
Trouble In Mind Records
Waxing Crescent Records
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