Review: Ramona Falls – Prophet (2012)
Ramona Falls came out of a delayed album and thirty-five people. Ambitious, yet thankfully those people were part of the process leading up to the debut Intuit instead of a touring caravan of Polyphonic proportions. Brent Knopf is at the heart of the indie rock beast, something that roams the Pacific Northwest in sometimes solitary indie rock reflection, but unexpectedly can elicit Beck-esque interjections. If you had to stretch, it’s like a soul-searching Soul Coughing. In 2011, Brent left Menomena to focus full-time on his Mount Hood band and additional creative endeavors (like producing fellow member Matt Sheehy’s other band Lost Lander‘s fantastic DRRT). What you get with Prophet is the kaleidoscopic actualization of barreling towards your creative endeavors headfirst and unabashedly.
There’s a lot of comparisons going on between Brent and Ben Gibbard these days, perhaps due to the quiet voice, yet “Bodies of Water” hints at what Death Cab for Cutie doesn’t do. Ramona Falls is not shy at interjecting sounds (yes, like the Postal Service tweaks in this song), or even to change direction without much warning. Musically, Ramona Falls is more Modest Mouse than Death Cab, which gives listeners a fertile sort of common ground ripe of gems for the ears. The first tastes came by way of “Spore” and “Sqworm.” “Spore” hugs your head with the opening acoustic, the way Todd Smith molded Days of the New in the late 90s. You rarely hear that balance these days in production that make a band sound bigger than they are. As echoing, spacey keys dot the first verse, a fuzzed guitar is counterweighted by the more organic acoustic, all on a bed of frenetic beats. It’s one of the few songs that are equally sparse and close with a build-up that begs the pivotal question of if the rest of Prophetholds a candle to “Spore.” “Sqworm” only egged listeners on, replacing the bayou guitar swing of “I Say Fever” with a punching, anxious piano that collapses into a barrage. Before reading on, rest assured, Knopf and Prophetisn’t formulaic.
Prophet resolves Intuit‘s main issue that it felt slightly skewed, like that apartment you want to desperately own aside from one side being higher than the other (“Salt Sack” up to and including “Always Right”). “If i Equals u” and “Proof” elongate Prophet with their downtempo, but don’t leaden the sophomore release. “Proof,” in fact, may be the strongest song Knopf has yet written, and the most gorgeous. Brent sings with an anguishing calm of an individual seeking reason amid disintegration, lyrical but also sonic as electronic tugs tangle and twist what otherwise would have been typically orchestral sweeping. Those unexpected moments leave a mark. “But you left anyway / Packed your bags / Sold your place / Until now / ‘Never knew you cared for me too / That I hurt you.”
The three year absence has benefited Brent and the rest of Ramona Falls. Prophet possesses more hooks than Intuit, while never allowing itself to languish in one realm of the music spectrum or another. So while he’ll drag you through such sonically satisfying troughs as in “Brevony,” songs like “The Space Between Lightning and Thunder” with its downhill sprints ensure you’ll eagerly revisit the nooks and crannies hidden throughout.