[sic] Magazine

Remember Remember – The Quickening

Graeme Ronald’s self-titled debut as Remember Remember gently blew me away. The music was largely all Ronald’s own work, layering and layering instruments and found sounds to create a delicious melodic interweave. What distinguished it from the host of other instrumental guitar music of the time was the fantastic melodic sensibility, the nimble development of sounds across each song, and playful feel. This new album brings on board a full band’s worth of musicians to great effect. While the melodies aren’t quite as winning this time around, this is often compensated for by the sheer instrumental force generated by a band of seven firing on all cylinders.

Opener ‘White Castle’ serves as a predictable but satisfying introductory salvo, beginning humbly with a tremolo pulse before building into a trademark Remember Remember lattice of glistening sound. The feeling the track musters is of watching a storm approach over the horizon, with the gentle Reichian pitter-patter of glockenspiels and woodwinds building in intensity before hissing cymbal washes and thunderous fuzz bass carry the track into an atmospheric realm populated by Emeralds’ celestial synth arpeggiators. ‘Ocean Potion’ builds from similarly humble beginnings before rising in tempo, easing off for a break, making a dash for greatness via some flamenco guitars, backing off again, then actually dashing to greatness via some very satisfying overdriven guitar chords, highlighted by the main melody.

The remainder of the first half is just as strong, with ‘Scottish Widows’ weaving piano arpeggios, pedalled guitar notes and aching strings to heartbreaking effect. (There’s the omnipresent glockenspiels too, which I usually hate, but here, as throughout, they create delicious rippled textures that serve the song rather than betraying a lack of ideas.) ‘Hey Zeus’ strips back the incessant layering to foreground thumping beats, string stabs, thumping bass and whooshing effects. It’s a different direction, with an Arabic-sounding melody carried by the strings, but one that works really well.

The second half is where things start to lose momentum. After the satisfying left turn of ‘Hey Zeus’, ‘Unclean Powers’ sounds like Remember-Remember-by-numbers – and one of the few instances where the melodies feel less than inspired. The title track is a forgettable solo piano ballad, then the start of penultimate track ‘One Happier’ sounds like the theme tune to a BBC melodrama. Once the track warms up and the piano is drowned out by other instruments playing more buoyant melodies, it sounds lovely, finished off by a nylon-string guitar picking out the main theme – which makes me wish the band had abandoned the piano altogether and replaced it with the guitar. Ah well.

Finale ‘John Candy’ is another left turn, like a more upbeat version of ‘Hey Zeus’, but its upbeat stomp feels a bit empty, especially when the melodies traced out over the top are some of the album’s weakest. The song goes someway towards being rescued in the second half by whizzing ebowed guitars, but still pales as an album closer; the band feel like they’re ready for a rest, having running out of energy and ideas.

Despite flagging in the second half and lacking the DIY inventiveness of Remember Remember’s debut, The Quickening is never less than an enjoyable listen, with plenty of wondrous, eyes-wide melodies to carry you off to a multi-coloured cloud. Nice.

Remember Remember