Ranges – Babel

2 out of 5

Label: A Thousand Arms

Produced by: Chris Common & Ranges

I am going to be rudely dismissive of a well-produced, skillfully played album: it ain’t Mogwai; it ain’t Red Sparowes.

I listen to a fair amount of instrumental metal / rock.  My tastes admittedly run toward the heavier stuff; “soaring” music – which Ranges plays – never quite matches that description for me.  That’s very certainly subjective, but something about the drifting pace of such music, and often the warmth with which it’s produced, does not trigger the kind of emotional response I desire from my listenings.  Mogwai I’ve never come around to; Red Sparowes I would bristle at as being described as metal, but I would eventually come to appreciate how layered their music could be.  Regardless, in both cases, the groups sound like themselves, which ended up becoming one of the main criteria I’d use to judge similar acts: do they offer something I can’t find elsewhere?

And that’s where Ranges just don’t really cut it for me.  This is, as mentioned, really excellently put together music.  It nails the majestic, marching pace of similar shoegazey, riffy acts as those mentioned, and builds to peaks of flush guitar playing and pounding drums.  The production, from Chris Common, certainly shows off Common’s penchant for bringing a grounded, organic vibe to heavier music, but… Ranges simply doesn’t do anything outside of the norm with that.  There’s nothing here that lets me identify this album over any other, or even from track to track.  And I do want to go back and stress how unfair that is for me to say, as the level of polish here surpasses some stuff that I might rank as more memorable, along with the fact that I’m sure the album does register with plenty of listeners in ways I’m just not keen enough to report but it is, nonetheless, my take.