Ramona Falls - Intuit
Steven Morgan 01/10/2009
Menomena have been quite a private band. Often hilarious and never afraid to completely throw the user off the scent of the incredibly calculated, heartfelt music they create (just take a look at the old website for an example: www.menomena.com), it has been hard to decipher much more about them than the fact that their Digital Loop Recorder is integral to their writing and recording process. Danny Seim's other project Lackthereof has little sonic overlap with Menomena, with its sparse intensely personal downbeat output mostly perpendicular to Menomena's giant soundscapes. With Ramona Falls, however, you could almost imagine this being the material for the third (or forth if you include Under An Hour) Menomena album.
Brent's use of his voice has always garnered some of the most tender, heartfelt moments in the Menomena back catalogue. Whether it's the fragile lines over Wet & Rusting or the intense breakdown of "I am fused out of iron" in Strongest Man In The World, the positioning of his child-like interjections are often the most dramatic moments in contrast to Justin Harris's grittier, more predominant lines.
I'd often been under the impression that this was one of the strongest points of Menomena, an incredible ability to play to their strengths showing a self-awareness more acute than most artists can ever hope to achieve. It's Ramona Falls that has made me realise that it's not just that, Brent's voice is simply intoxicating. It's evident from this album that Brent is responsible for the more tender, melodic touching moments juxtaposed against cinematic crescendos that come across simultaneously incredibly natural and clinically contrived. Dramatic big minor-key orchestral sounds break down to thinly strummed acoustic guitar mid-bar without a hint of awkwardness or gimmick, it shows incredible instrumental control putting the focus on the overall emotional response of the song as opposed to their instrumental wares. Brent knows exactly how to capitalise on his small voice, whether the stuttering "so-o-o-o-o" that grabs you in the chorus of Going Once, Going Twice or the shakiness in the delivery of the syllables of "My heart will just to notice it exist" during Clover that overwhelm in their subtlety, his control is well disciplined.
Musically, there's not much in this and Menomena, there's less guitar than Friend And Foe offered, though considering the amount of difference between Menomena's albums, there's less between Intuit and Friend And Foe than between Friend And Foe and Under An Hour or I Am The Fun Blame Monster. If anything, that's the biggest criticism I can think of with regards to this album, and it's a pretty tenuous one. These songs show more comfort in a sound than Menomena have ever shown. Intuit focuses much more on the strength of the songs within, with their frantic sound now no longer a focal point. This may alienate some who crave something completely different, but this is Ramona Falls, not Menomena.
Brent's shown the extent to which his influence reaches over Menomena's music, and despite this album featuring over thirty guests, the sound is coherent throughout leaving it clear that Brent is very much at the forefront of each moment. After each release from Menomena and now Ramona Falls, I've always had that panic that this is going to be the one that "just isn't as good", but with four albums worth of material pleasantly surprising me each time, this is yet another thankful occasion where that's not the case.
Ramona Falls Myspace