Remember Remember started life as a one-man operation and their debut album back in 2008 showcased the skill of Graeme Ronald in creating lilting soundscapes armed with little more than a loop station and a furtive imagination. Ronald’s songs generally start out as little more than skeletal frameworks before taking a more fully-fledged sound as ideas and layers are slowly added and subtracted. There are limitations to this technique, of course (repetition being one), but Ronald’s technique and skill at pacing his work mean that repetition is an essential part of what he does. With a central point around which to work, his soundscapes ebb and flow as they circle around delicate melodies creating a hypnotic wash in which to get lost.
With Ronald no longer working unaided, The Quickening finds Remember Remember expanded into a seven-piece line up. As a result, the band no longer sounds as compromised as perhaps the debut album suggested. This is not to say that the basics of Ronald’s approach have altered – repetition is still key to Remember Remember – but The Quickening sounds more organic and more capable of exploring the possibilities of a melody.
Ocean Potion is a perfect example of this. Beginning as little more than a quaint glockenspiel motif, it unfurls magnificently into a smouldering nine-minute expanse. Guitars join thrumming electronics as the track gathers pace creating a snowball of unease as it heads toward an undulating, shamanic swell. The catch-and-release feel of this song, more than any other on the album, sounds for all the world like a band improvising and playing off of each other, snatching music from the ether rather than playing to anything that’s been written. It’s as invigorating as it is entrancing.
Aside from an apparently more natural approach, The Quickening also differs from its predecessor in tone. The debut album was almost playful at times, but there is a more mournful mood that permeates many of these songs. The tumbling piano notes that introduce Scottish Widows cascade like swollen raindrops, which when augmented with strings and lamenting horns, could easily sit alongside the pastoral symphonies of Elgar and Vaughan Williams. Similarly, the solitary piano of A Larger Demon, whilst unquestionably beautiful, is utterly heartbreaking. Its notes reverberate longingly, each aching for a response but finding nothing.
One Happier is slightly more upbeat, its melody distinctly positive in comparison to the barely concealed pain of A Larger Demon. As the glockenspiel intertwines with the vibrant strings, it takes on an almost euphoric feel to offer some respite from the somewhat bleak nature found at the heart of many of these songs.
Taking One Happier’s positive lead and running with it is the closer John Candy, but even here there is a darkness creeping around the edges intent on creating ever-changing moods. A tinkling math-rock inspired motif is taken and subjected to various mood-altering tinkering courtesy of shadow-laden swells and euphoric squalls of noise. Even the summery inflections of Unclean Powers are subjected to a creeping sense of melancholy, but it’s hard not to find an elegant beauty in the central melody.
The Quickening might be a darker album as a whole, but there are moments of stunning melody throughout. The expanded lineup gives Remember Remember and Graeme Ronald greater scope – not just sonically but emotionally – the result of which is a collection of songs that possess an undeniable resonance that is unlikely to be forgotten.