Raymond Scott Woolson - Legendarium

LEGENDARIUM reviewed by Ray Carmen at Cut & Paste:

Raymond Scott Woolson started, like me, years ago in the “cassette underground”, releasing several tapes and a couple of 7” singles. Back then he was doing hard, fast punk with introspective lyrics, while occasionally ventering into experimental soundscapes and harsh, abrasive noise.

All that has changed.

A few years ago, Raymond found what he has admitted he was searching for all along....God. But instead of preaching about his new-found spiritual peace, he decided to just let the music do the talking. As a result, his music has taken on an ethereal, atmospheric, sometimes melancholy sound. His guitar playing is very reminiscent of the Cocteau Twins’ Robin Guthrie and Vini Reilly (the Duritti Column). He is that good.

Legendarium is one of the most beautiful albums I’ve heard in years. It is peaceful. This is not to say it is in any way easy listening, elevator-type music. This music takes you places. Slow, ambient pieces, like the opener “Awake And dreaming”, are offset with some really upbeat funky tracks like the incredible “By Special Invitation Of A Sky-Blue Scarf.” Distorted guitars are used to drive poppy tunes like “Through Towers And Rivers Of Light And Beyond.”

I have listened to this album several times, and each time I discover some nuance I hadn’t noticed before in the many sonic layers of these songs. Woolson is an incredible guitar player. And not only that, he engineered, played and produced every note on this cd at home. It sounds like a professional studio job.

This is one of the best independent albums I have ever heard. Period.

LEGENDARIUM reviewed by Aaron C. Anderson at Phantom Tollbooth:

From the moment I put this album into my stereo until the last note was played I knew that I had just experienced something very, very special.  Quite simply this album is amazing.  It’s one of those albums that defy classification.  Woolson uses a multitude of instruments throughout; instruments such as guitars, keyboards, flutes and drums.

I would define this music as poetry without the words.  Some might call it mood music, ambient or something else, but such classifications would betray the emotion that is contained in this music.  If you like music that you can write your own story to, Legendarium is for you.  There are no lyrics at all; you create your own by absorbing this stunning music and composing your own journey, mood or reflection that the music brings to mind.

“Falling into the Waiting Fields” is a delicately glorious song. This song is like the other nine songs on the disc; the music allows the listener to have their own unique experience of feelings that these melodies will conjure up.  Longing for the Creator and desiring to bask in His radiant Light are some of the emotions that are sure to be aroused upon hearing this album.

“How Her Westering Sun Turned These Clouds Into Gold “ is reminiscent of the opening to U2’s “Where The Streets Have No Name”. Not that Raymond is imitating; it’s just that sometimes a timeless song sometimes reminds you of another timeless song.  All the songs are highlights, no filler at all here. Too bad that only a small audience will be exposed to this exquisite composition.

For those wondering exactly what the music on this album sounds like, think Phil Keaggy (The Wheat and the Wind) with a few beefed up guitars here and there.  If you are a fan of good instrumental rock music this is definitely the CD for you. Once you get your copy I’m sure you’ll put it in your stereo, place it on repeat and let these sweet soothing sounds wash over your soul.

LEGENDARIUM reviwed by Brent Diaz at Somewhere Cold:

Long before Hammock became the media darlings of the shoegaze community for their light atmospheric music, there was Raymond Scott Woolson. Not to take anything away from Hammock’s music and their remarkable 2005 release, but Woolson has indeed been making a similar brand of swirling, ambient, dreamy instrumental music spread out on two releases over a number of years.

However, and like Hammock, Woolson completely self-recorded and released his two full-length CD’s; but unlike his contemporaries, he has not received the same acclaim and attention. This is likely for a couple of reasons. Firstly, Woolson’s two releases, 2003’s Atmospherium and 2004’s Legendarium are certainly do-it-yourself home recordings, packaged with manufactured simple black and white photographs.

Yet, even though these recordings cannot betray their do-it-yourself status through the way they sound or the packaging, the fact remains that Woolson has created some mesmerizing music that transcends the slightly muddy production values. In the end, one cannot help but be impressed by Woolson’s ear, talent, and ability to craft some great-sounding music all on his own, simply for the love of music.

And, perhaps that’s what makes the music of Legendarium sound so pure: the listener understands right off the bat that Woolson is creating music that speaks to him, and for the sheer joy of expression. This sentiment gives the music a sense of peace, life, and movement, as Woolson is able to freely express himself without hindrance.

In the deft hands of a talented individual like Woolson, this artistic freedom yields pleasurable results, and both Atmospherium and Legendarium are strong listens from start to finish. While I personally prefer the thicker layers of guitars used on Atmospherium (a CD comparable to a low-fi Hammock or Windy and Carl), I’ve decided to review Legendarium for the sake that it’s the more recent release.

Legendarium sees an expansion of Woolson’s sound, as he incorporates a greater variety of instruments to convey his moods of tranquility and sombreness. In addition to the various delayed guitars that Woolson uses, a generous helping of keyboards, drum machines, percussion and field recordings are used throughout the 1+ hour long full-length. Though the CD stands on its own in its entirety as a cohesive listen, there are some great moments that stand out which demonstrate Woolson’s sound.

For instance on the opener “Awake and Dreaming”, Woolson impressively strums on an acoustic guitar, sounding like a guitar virtuoso playing in the midst of the other ethereal sounds flowing in the song. “While The Heavens Wheeled Above Us” sounds like a classic dreampop song (in the best sense) with its liquefied guitars and gentle atmospherics.

Woolson explores shoegaze territory with “Through Towers And Rivers Of Light And Beyond”, as well as on the menacing “You Are Always The Ocean Around Me”, as he plays thick, syrupy distorted guitars over driving beats, while retaining a slight hint of dreamy delay in the music. “Falling Into The Waiting Fields” is an almost symphonic work with guitars and keyboards building and breathing in harmonious unison.

“At Length For Hatching Ripe He Breaks The Shell”, on the other hand, sounds almost like a dreamy instrumental version of a Starflyer 59 song, with its campy drum beat, indie-pop vibe, acoustic guitar, bass, and distorted lead guitar.

All in all, Legendarium is a satisfying listen for fans of shoegaze-dreampop-atmospheric music looking for something a little off the beaten track. It’s abundantly clear that Raymond Scott Woolson has a singular musical focus, and the talent to write and execute well-crafted musical soundscapes. It’s also clear that, with the freedom that comes with being a totally independent artist who answers to no one but himself, Woolson is free to make the music he wants to make, resulting in a fascinating and non-contrived listen.

But, one cannot help but wonder what Woolson would be able to pull off with a little more equipment, or some production help. Whatever the possibilities may be, the reality is that Legendarium is a solid release that will appeal to fans of the more popular (but not necessarily more legitimate) Hammock.

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