Electro-Acoustic Music from Canada
by Andy Bargerstock
Ken Ramm fronts the Canadian band Euphoria.
With so much very good music coming from Canada these days, it’s time to take a careful look at creative groups from “up north” who have been producing marvelous music for the past couple of decades without massive followings in the U.S. This month we tip the hat to Euphoria.
Toronto-based electronic music wizard and Emmy-nominated composer Ken Ramm fronts the Canadian band known as Euphoria that began recording in 1999 with its unique style of hypnotic, psychedelic slide guitar and ambient rhythms. Since then, Euphoria has released three CDs of mostly instrumental music with a style that Ramm calls “ambient guitronica.” An educated ear hears flavors of Ry Cooder, David Gilmore (Pink Floyd), and Jerry Garcia (Grateful Dead).
So where does one begin to explore this music? Let’s go chronologically, from the 1999 self-titled CD Euphoria to the 2001 Beautiful My Child, and finally to the 2006 Precious Time. Needless to say, a new CD is way overdue!
From the debut album in 1999, Euphoria’s big single was “Delirium.” Subsequent remixes of this track are definitely worth a listen, especially “Delirium (Radio Mix)” and “Delirium (Fila Brazilia Remix).” Both are true to the original track but take the listener into distinctively different improvisational adventures. Often remixes are treated with over-indulgent beats and distortion effects—that’s not the case here. Next, sample the two soul-inspired tracks, “Lost on a River,” and “The Dreamer,” in which someone gets lost trying to make a phone call. On both tracks, the William-Orbit-style swirling guitar makes you forget that this music was composed by a Canadian.
In the 2001 CD, Beautiful My Child, the track “Devil May Care” begins with one of the oldest instruments in recorded history, the mouth harp (a.k.a. Jew’s harp). The song begins like something from deep in the Appalachian Mountains: mouth harp twanging, mountain fiddle swinging, and traditional Afro-American rhythms and voices echoing in the distance. From there it develops into a very satisfying resolve. After you establish the intended care-free attitude on this track, you are ready to take a “Desert Drive” down (I imagine) U.S. Route 1 on the California coastline. Imagine the scene: kiteboarders rising high in the surf while just a few hills away inland, sands swirl to the meandering beats. While you are in the neighborhood, listen to “(Is this) Heaven?” with its French influence, then “In the Pink” and “Little Gem.” All of these display the distinctive “guitronica” genius of Ken Ramm with washing slide guitars, ambient tabla beats, and outstanding soul-inspired vocals.
Finally, in the 2006 CD Precious Time, singer Tina Dico of Zero 7 fame charges ahead on “Saints and Sinners.” This Danish singer has exploded on the international stage in recent years, seducing the very best blues lines out of every song in such an unassuming manner. Finish things off with “Cowboys” and “Back Against the Wall.”
When you explore these three albums by the master Ken Ramm, your life will be different! Cherish the change. The ambience around Canadian railroads never sounded so good. Take the ride with splendor.
To acquire an audio file of this review, go to www.kruufm.com. Join Andy Bargerstock’s Fringe Toast radio show every Wednesday from 8-10 p.m. on KRUU-LP 100.1 FM in Fairfield, and available worldwide via www.kruufm.com.
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