Richard A Ingram - Happy Hour [White Box - 2011]The grim faced Richard A. Ingram has returned with "Happy Hour", another ode to tape and its degradation, following up last year's "Consolamentum", an album of depressive loops for guitar and piano. For the purposes of this album he has either left his guitar behind or totally obscured its sound, which turns out to be a wise decision. This album's palette contains mostly gradations of dry, grainy winds, as if tape containing field recordings of sand gusts had been further degraded by the elements. Loud, quavering tape hiss permeates the entire album. There are 4 tracks, 10-15 minutes in length.
It's a subtler and more complex atmosphere than the wallowing (though still well composed) "Consolamentum" had. The feel of this music is closer to the inanimate, natural desolation of a desert than the alcoholic depressive episode indicated by the title "Happy Hour". There is certainly a nostalgia and a sadness to these sounds, but it is also the ancient, timeless sound of erosion itself, of weather patterns erasing history, of patterns in the sand inevitably swept away.
Ingram does a marvellous job of imbuing the wind with tonality. The resonances of the winds are tuned to a single haunting chord for the duration of each track, and with each fleeting gust, small hints of it are revealed, evoking an uncertainty, a delirious feeling of forgetting.
The first piece, "Agile Drone", contains only the wind. The second track "Truncheon Tree" has a short, dusty piano loop of only two notes, which sketch a magnificent sparsitude as they repeatedly dissipate into the distance. The melodic winds again begin to swirl, swell and pick up over the course of the track, until they are suddenly hushed and only the tape loop again remains. It's a wonderful sounding track, if slightly predictable with its very cinematic progression.
The first few minutes of "Chaos Fortifier" are the only low point the album has, essentially because Ingram is content to let the inert bed of tape hiss (which already formed a backdrop to each of the previous tracks) continue rustling along without accompaniment for nearly 7 minutes. There are slight shifts and sonic imperfections in these few minutes, but this segment is still uneventful and texturally monotonous compared to the rest of the album. The second half of the track partially makes up for it with an oddly consonant and zen sounding implied fuzz bass melody, which should have entered several minutes earlier.
With the final and most interesting piece, "Retro Morph", we leave the desert for an altogether foreign and threatening realm. The winds here have been slowed into creeping watery stagnation, possessed by nameless sinister entities, whose whispers occasionally emerge. Thick bass tones, the likes of which are typically used to cement ambient pieces like this into some kind of droning tonality, instead meander sickeningly up and down dissonant intervals of the chromatic scale. And so, "Happy Hour" does ultimately conclude with a sense of inebriated confusion.
In conclusion this is a very intriguing bit of soundscapery, which any listener with a little patience should find evocative. It's certainly a more mature effort than Ingram's previous "Consolamentum" album. I would describe it as desert ambience, but rather than exuding the mystic clarity which permeates the works of Steve Roach, this album has all the opacity and obscurity of a sandstorm. I'd especially recommend it to lovers of tape loops and fuzzed out textures.Josh Landry