David Ramos | This Up Here
Most Likely To: inspire extreme impatience in all but the most devoted.
The minutes I spent listening to the last four tracks (“Watchtower,” “Wax Figures,” “Long Road Ahead,” “Island Song”) of David Ramos’ This Up Here were some of the longest of my life, my patience for his brand of stilted faerie pomp utterly sanded down by the preceding 13 tracks. Listening to This Up Here was like picking my way through a precocious writer’s notebook, looking, looking for the novel amid the alluring doodles and tangents.
Not that the sketches are bad; Ramos is a master of atmospherics, alternately a rhymer and a singer, with a keen ear for the piquant drum loop, the plaintive keyboard, the luminous hum. It’s just that too many of these touches are lost in songs with punchless melodies and tiresome vocals.
The album drips and droops through five tracks until he catches fire with the breathtaking “Don’t Exist,” a paean to love with haunting guitar and drums that introduce a thrust and contrapuntal quality absent in previous tracks. This wonder kicks off a three-song run where Ramos opens the throttle a bit, ending with “Face Full,” a squeamishly vivid, vulnerable and lyrically inventive epistle to a friend with a very sick mother.
Unfortunately, this energy vanishes again from track 10 onward. Every song from there to the finish felt like another segue in search of an album. By the time “Island Song” wound mercifully down—again, a denouement for a story that never began—I was left with the feeling that I had just listened to a pile of liner notes, ideas for songs, or a concept sheet that was Ramos’ rejoinder after being challenged to score the next 10 Gondry films in a single afternoon.
Maybe one day he’ll find the groove that conjures the wild, sprawling albums suggested by mood pieces like “Count,” “One Last Stop,” and “How the Night Turned Cold.” But it didn’t happen this time out. This work feels bound for the indie/rap “Experiments” annex.