Padang Food Tigers: Go Down, Moses
Under The Spire

Rameses III: For José María
Under The Spire

In a rather surprising follow-up to 2009's Type release I Could Not Love You More, Rameses III gives us a single-track EP dedicated to José María Bellido, a pianist, husband, father, and athlete who was stricken with crippling diabetes. It's a plaintive and melancholy setting that features, in its opening minutes, the voice of José's daughter, Cristina Bellido, speaking in Catalan and a simple piano theme repeating overtop a thrumming drone. That theme eventually disappears, leaving the gently swirling drone to persist in its absence. Strings slowly advance to the forefront and Cristina's voice briefly returns, after which the strings swell in volume and size. The piece carries on without interruption, growing ever more epic as the deepening mass of sound is joined by field recordings of children's voices. Like everything I've heard by Rameses III, For José María impresses as a wonderfully executed and realized work, even if the release's overall scope is circumscribed somewhat by its EP length.

If Go Down, Moses is representative of its approach, Padang Food Tigers might just be the most concise outfit operating within the ambient-folk genre—how many other acts issue recordings of a ten-minute duration? Under the Spire's accompanying notes argue that what the EP (200 copies available) lacks in running time, it makes up for in atmosphere, and in truth it's hard to argue the point given the quality of the EP's content. In the title track, tinkling wind chimes and outdoor sounds (city noise, birds) establish a peaceful mood, which is then deepened when banjo and exotic string sounds enter; at first the musical elements appear rather tentatively but then blossom as the music becomes more forceful. It's beautiful stuff and well-modulated too, as are the remaining pieces, “Wandering Souls”  and “Corn Stem King,” soothing vignettes scored for banjo, melodica, and piano and enhanced by field recordings of campfire crackle and children's voices. The field recording elements make the group's natural sound feel even more homespun and outdoorsy, and the prominent role given to banjo and the emphasis on acoustic instruments makes Padang Food Tigers sound rather like a first cousin to Balmorhea.

July 2010