Ambient music is an either take it or leave it proposition for most listeners. Popular music fans are accustomed to compositions that follow a straight line, feature recognizable turns, and have vocals, a chorus, and a bridge. Ricardo Alves’ release Hope is a fourteen song outing that will exert, perhaps, surprising appeal to people who normally wouldn’t listen to ambient music. These are intensely suggestive and even cinematic examples of the form that lose nothing from their lack of traditional structures. Moreover, they are intelligent compositions that hang together in a decidedly different way than popular songs do. Alves, however, demonstrates the same understanding of the importance of dynamics. There isn’t a single song on this collection that doesn’t move in a dramatic fashion akin to the best rock songs. Alves clearly grasps how to manipulate sound in such a way that it moves listeners.
The title track opens things impressively. “Hope In Tomorrow” has the definite structure referred to in the review’s introduction. It rises and falls on the back of the synthesizer work, but it’s clear from the tenor of the piece that the hope referred to in the title doesn’t come from the bright new dawn, but rather than dark night of the soul and the desperate belief that things have to improve. Much of Alves’ work on this release has a decidedly darker hue. There are exceptions to this. Some tracks, like “First Bounce”, have a tastefully thoughtful quality. They are typically defined by a more insistent percussive pulse than we hear on the more intensely arranged tracks and are less overtly cinematic. “I Cannot Travel Very Far On My Own”, however, returns listeners to the ghostly landscape of the opening track and it’s clear, from the track title alone, that Alves wants to suggest vulnerability and need with this song. It succeeds admirably.
“They’re Having Fun” combines both of the aforementioned modes into one track. The first half is a dark synthesizer tour de force that plays rather ominously, but it shifts into a much livelier second half with layered percussion that gets the song moving in an interesting way. “Tesla” is one of the album’s most challenging tracks thanks to its unique conglomeration of a variety of moods and segues flawlessly from sections that overwhelm the listener into much quieter passages. “Unsettling Mind” has a patient climb from the beginning and is one of the album’s longest tracks. The synthesizer lines have an assortment of different moods and flash across the listener’s consciousness with great orchestration of the different emotions. “Too Soon” has different sounds that suggest organ and electric piano and a muted throbbing in the heart of the arrangement that lends it an added intensity.
by Lydia Hillenburg
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