J.R. Bohannon, Ben Greenberg, Ryley Walker: For Michael Ripps CD

J.R. Bohannon, Ben Greenberg, Ryley Walker: For Michael Ripps CD

J.R. Bohannon, Ben Greenberg, Ryley Walker: For Michael Ripps CD

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"Guitarists J.R. Bohannon, Ben Greenberg, and Ryley Walker weave between fast-paced riffs and spun-out meditations on For Michael Ripps, creating an album that’s constantly flowing and driven by tangible textures, detailed melodies, and a delicate blend of musical style. Recorded in one session in June 2020, For Michael Ripps marks the first collaboration any of the musicians have had since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, and the first time the long-time friends were able to play together. The recording appears on Husky Pants, a label founded by Walker that’s morphed from a place to release limited-run live LP’s of his songwriting work to highlighting experimental and improvised music.

There’s palpable excitement from the first notes of the album, which unfolds through a series of driving repetitions. Each piece shifts through melodies that explore the multitude of influences beneath the players’s fingers. The trio jammed in hour-long chunks—split up by coffee breaks—and then spliced together material from those improvisatory sessions to create both tracks on For Michael Ripps. The result is a far-ranging album that traverses much musical territory, bringing in influences from classic blues and rock to more psychedelic and dissonant landscapes. It’s no surprise, considering each of the musicians has his own style and plethora of musical projects—Bohannon and Greenberg bring noise and experimental-rock influences from work in bands like Gold Dime, Uniform, and Z’s, and Walker brings his chameleonic experience in songwriting and solo guitar playing.

The album opens with “Michael,” an improvisation that flows from an eerie, ominous cloud into crisp, ecstatic melodies. It moves effortlessly between four drastically different sections, bridging each musical moment together with a gentle transition. After the foggy, dissonant opening comes a jolt of energy; the guitars interlock in a repeating, spirited pattern reminiscent of minimalist music. The bright sound feels like it’s meant for a drive on open roads, sprawling and infinite. A new section arrives with a burst of chunky, electric chords that fall between fiery classic rock-influenced riffs. Once that vibrancy fades away, what’s left is a call-and-response made of spontaneous, echoey plucks that reverberate into the grainy ether, eventually trailing off into silence.

“Ripps,” the second track on the album, finds a similar groove to “Michael,” but delivers a bit more frenzy—from its first moments, controlled chaos reigns supreme. The dark, low-pitched opening blooms into a precise, crunchy repetition with random entrances of glitchy, outer space electronics. But that funky discordance melts away into a gentle, warm section of warm, billowing harmonies. Here, the repetition is more subtle; delicate strums float into each other, forming a translucent cloud of sound that both hangs in radiant stillness and pushes forward with twinkling pulsation. The music eventually stops, but its luminescence remains as it vanishes into thin air.

Listening to For Michael Ripps is a journey of contrasts. The spirit of friendship bleeds between the interwoven layers of music; the musicians are so in-sync throughout the twists and turns that it’s easy to feel their relationship to one another. This is the kind of music that makes the perfect companion for roaming into the distant unknown—it stretches out for miles with a gripping sense of endless forward motion."

-Vanessa Ague
 

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