words by tom johnson
I remember being told that reviewers should try and remove themselves from the writing as much as possible, that to include your own personal reflections when discussing an album leads to detachment between reader and writer, creating barriers through the ambiguity of our own weird and wonderful minds. I’ve never believed it. There’s a balance, of course, but, as far as music is concerned context really can be, and often is, everything. I could pull apart Strange Ranger’s new album from a mechanical viewpoint for you; describe the guitar sounds and the way in which they’re laid and bound and intertwined; tell you when the songs rise and fall; define the moment it tightens and then unravels. But that always exists, right there for you, the first time you listen and however many times you follow it up.
And so I prefer context. Context is the unlocking. It’s the human connection that might not directly link the you to the I but can bring focus to parts previously unnoticed, framing certain aspects or else the whole damn thing in a different kind of light.
I’ve spent a lot of time with Strange Ranger’s new album, Daymoon, over the past few weeks. In headphones, on journeys, in the room I’m learning to call home. As I write this it’s filling the space of the empty house that said room can be found in. It’s dark today, or at least the light is struggling to fill the space in the same way that the music is. It feels like Autumn, not for the first time but with the most clarity thus far, the greyness of everything forging a melancholy that seems to have been shaken in through the windows by the wind ravaged trees that I can see doing their slow-dance outside. On this day this special record feels different again, like it’s finally landed, for me, not in certain aspects and places but as one whole, as its own world, or its own void, to be fully immersed in.
The band have always had a knack for crafting the kind of solitude that can’t really be placed or defined (both here and in their previous Sioux Falls guise), the sort of hollow-chested poignance that tends to appear right from the heart of songs, drifting in like an atmosphere that doesn’t make any real sense, like the stirring of a stomach on a long drive, the stillness of a city when the rain suddenly stops.
Such sentiments find their way in to numerous tracks across their poignant and stirring new record, whether that’s through muddy compositions such as ‘Everything Is Happening’ or ‘Why Didn’t You’, both of which recall Alex G’s detached sense of isolation, or through the likes of ‘Hydration Is Key and ‘Seesaw’ where their meandering instrumentals seem to come from a different space entirely, with precisely the same result.
As much about mood as moments of inspiration, Daymoon is messy and disjointed. Despite the stirring nature of the work and the resulting connection it forges, Daymoon feels ready to collapse at any given moment, like the way most of us feel ready to collapse at any moment, and it feels all the more resoundingly compelling for that fact, holding the listener on the very precipice of its grasp until you suddenly find yourself on the other side of it, the world around appearing more-or-less as it did before, save for a slight shift in the surrounding space; a presence felt without any tangible recollection of when or where it came from.
Shaded and vulnerable, raw and wavering, the whole thing now sits as one of the year’s most immersive undertakings, a record that won’t bind itself to all those that find their way in to it, but one that will sit as something wildly significant and important for others. Context, eh?
The album is released on Friday 6th October, via Tiny Engines, but you can stream it in full below right now – be sure to grab a pre-order here.