Under Dwellers by Thomas Ragsdale

Release date: April 8, 2018
Label: Domino Publishing

I’ve always been a fan of minimal music, mainly from a contemporary classical point of view by the likes of Steve Reich and Philip Glass. Then I happened to come across Thomas Ragsdale’s Under Dwellers. The title beautifully represents the pulse of the soundscape driven music, with the subtle undertones of melodic development etched in across the three tracks.

Ragsdale expresses that this EP pays tribute to “the world beneath our own” and it appears to my interpretation that each track represents a different depth of the world below. ‘Seventh King’ starts with a slow pulsating bass across a swarm of white noise. The interesting thing about this track is how each new sound melds into one another; the key to this track is about the development of texture and this can often be a rare thing to be crafted so well. There are percussive sounds and samples, echoing synths and phased drum patterns across a voice sample. This track screams out level one of the underworld and it gets better from here.

‘Acolytes’ is by far my favourite track on this release. It reminds me of an experimental Four Tet mixed with some Jon Hopkins. There is use of modern circuits, acid lines and tape echo with swooning crescendos and diminuendos across the board. This track is also more angry and aggressive, yet it is relaxing at the same time. If you like drones and gradual melody lines, then like me, you will love this track. It feels like minimalism pushed to the brink of angry techo; there’s clear inspiration from all corners of the electronic genre but everything about it works.

‘Waiting City’, which is the last track, gets heavy on the white noise again, but it’s still dissimilar to ‘Seventh King’. A mixture of guitar and piano ostinatos almost make you forget that the soundscape accompaniment is gradually changing with the track, and there’s a sense of forlorn that the piece is over. I have never been introduced to electronic music that merges experimental sound art with melodic music, but this is certainly the eye opener for me. I haven’t previously heard anything from Thomas Ragsdale before but from now on I will be keeping my ear to the ground for any future releases. I highly recommend grabbing a copy of Under Dwellers.

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