Ranges appeared out of seemingly nowhere shortly after the release of their Solar Mansions album. Montana’s instrumental quartet showed everyone what they were made of, and started making waves that would ever expand in post-rock circles; part in thanks to their talents, and part in thanks to their strong social media presence. I’ve had the privilege of writing Ranges reviews for three different blogs now, and I would be lying if I said I was tired of it.
RELEASE DATE: 22 September 2017 LABEL: A Thousand Arms Music (US) / Dunk!Records (EU)
My love affair with the band started in 2014, shortly before they released Solar Mansions, when I was doing weekly reviews for Postrockstar. Since then I’ve been inspired to write whenever Ranges sent me new material, but I couldn’t help notice that they’d hit a plateau, adhering to a musical formula a little too strictly. When I noted this in my review for The Gods of the Copybook Headings, I was a little afraid of discouraging the band. However, when I had the pleasure of meeting the band last year, they all thanked me for my criticism, saying it was the kick in the pants they needed to renew their creativity. There was a notable difference between And The People Cried Out for a King and The Gods of the Copybook Headings. And I can’t begin to tell you how hard it was to wait a whole year for their new album, The Ascensionist.
This band has become enlightened. Ranges is now existing in a wholly different reality, having shed their former selves, and ascending into a world of remarkable music. The album starts as many post-rock albums do, with a soft pillow of filler. “The Wanderer” doesn’t lend much to the album by itself, but it showcases its new ambient chops to the listener, giving a spotlight to their reborn sense of texture.
“Seven Sisters” is where the action begins in earnest. Right away it’s apparent how they’re acting as a band, giving their beast of a drummer free range over his percussive domain. They still play their wall of sound in perfect sync with each other as they have in all of their previous albums, but this time it feels more honest, and that only lends itself to its intensity. And as the album goes on you’ll fall deeper and deeper in love with this new band as they show you around. From the layered percussion in “Called Not to a New Religion, But to Life” to the deeply thrumming basslines in “Seven Veils”, and the keyboards laced throughout the entire album, they’re like a small child on Christmas day, excitedly showing you all of their new toys.
What’s more impressive is how expertly they flex their newfound muscles. They manufacture all of these new sounds, but all of it feels like it comes so naturally to the band, nothing feels forced at all. They’ve searched for new textures for their guitar effects and they implement them expertly. They’ve never had this much synth on any of their albums, and it’s hard to fathom the impact it’s had on their sound overall, but it’s too good to overlook.
Looking through the tracklisting, it’s clear that there is a lot of hidden meanings behind these songs. “The Greater Lights” and “The Lesser Lights” could be from masonic rituals, or from the Bible’s telling of creation, meaning the sun and moon, respectively. “Seven Sisters” and “Seven Veils” could be referring to a dance performed in front of Herod, the dance of seven veils. Even the fact that the number seven pops up multiple times could have a meaning of its own, signifying the ancient Hebrew number of completion. Even the titles “Called Not to a Religion, But to Life”, “In the Arms of Kings and Gods”, and “Babylon the Great pt. 1” evoke images of deep importance. If you were lucky enough to order the vinyl, you should have received a small book that has symbols and crazed etchings that will amplify the mysterium that is “The Ascensionist”.
Production-wise, like their previous albums, The Ascensionist sounds clear and crisp. Having their recording and mixing done locally, it rings as purely as the mountain air that surrounds them. CJ Blessum, the guitarist of the band, is an underrated mixer, that’s something I have loved about Ranges, even from the beginning. The post-production overall is superb, the quiet parts come through as clearly as the louder passages, still leaving nothing sounding compressed.
Ranges has taken several steps in several different directions, but every step has been confident, and bold. These steps seem like the beginning of their new journey, and they’re inviting us to join them on their Ascension to the top of what the future holds for the band.
WATCH | RANGES – THE ASCENSIONIST [OFFICIAL VIDEO]
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