Scottish guitarist and electronic music producer Ralph Kinsella has mentioned his affection for “the poetics of the bedroom.” He’s referring to this intimate location as ideal for listening and, as in his case, suitable for music creation. A pronounced feeling is present — warm and flowing, lonely but transportive. This is distant travel in a small room, a concept closely tied to Kinsella’s debut album, Lessening.
Imagined distance is a luxury during lockdown, as Kinsella composed and recorded Lessening‘s ten evocative tracks during 2020’s extended confinement. One can easily hear hints of detachment and melancholy within remarkable songs like “Gallows Hill“. But these sit alongside beauty and hope — there’s a sense of these songs projecting better worlds, ones we want to live in for a while.
Ralph Kinsella hails from the dual-named Dumfries and Galloway, which he describes as a “liminal, fringe space … where rural and (semi-rural) Scotland uncomfortably meet urban areas.” It’s a landscape, famous as a primary filming location for The Wicker Man, which influences Kinsella’s music as a familiarity that hides secrets. “The boondocks, interspersed with fragments of debris and flickering housing scheme street lights. These places (and the artistic exploration of these places) suffuse my work.”
With a background in “mostly lo-fi rock” bands, Kinsella’s sonic path shifted after a teenage encounter with Sweden’s experimental Häpna imprint and frequent visits to Glasgow’s Monorail Records. He continues to explore the musical outer reaches, citing Elaine Radigue, Francis Dhomont, Loren Conners, and Cucina Povera as current obsessions. But, Kinsella also appreciates the guiding nudge of subtle accessibility. Lessening pits abstract against structure and the melodic against the opaque.
Kinsella’s guitar is the even thread, sometimes bare and then often processed, awash in texture and synthetic glares. Tracks like “In the In-Between Light” use the guitar to express enormity — of space and emotion — before the song is gently brought close by calming lines and reassuring synth patches. There’s also a soft tension in songs like “Lung Noises,” sharing the masterful slow build of the shoegaze genre’s finest practitioners. Lessening‘s closer, “Born on the Cusp,” offers a resolution — chiming guitars and reverberant tones signaling both loss and promise. This is the sound of an uncertain present feeling its way to that better world.
- Jon Fugler (XLNT Radio Show / Fluke) – “The soundtrack to the confinement seems to have largely hailed from Scotland here. This lovely selection certainly captures that mood and is very reminiscent of the solitude of the countryside there. Not a bad track on there for me, sounding equally as good in the background, on the big speakers and more critically on headphones. Hard to fault.”
- Lexifer (Legion of Green Men) – “Great atmosphere and pacing. Evocative and listenable, quality production that would sit well with the likes of Michael Brook or Klimek (S. Meissner). This will definitely find its way into my ambient and cosmic chill out sets.”
- Vegard Wolf Dyvik (Of Norway) – “All tracks are beautiful! Tender but brooding and beautifully tinged with melancholy. I love the way Ralph has mixed pleasant sounds and harmonies with tape noise and foley sounds.”
- George Corona (Tin Cup / Terrorbird) – “Beautiful and engaging … reminds me of Explosions In the Sky or Eluvium. I didn’t know Ralph Kinsella but glad to now.”
- Kid Loco – “This is some kind of a trip, isn’t it? Great.”
- Jon Wesley (freelance writer) – “This is gorgeous ambient music. I can’t wait to put on the headphones and watch an episode of Cosmos while I listen.”
- The Rudeman (South Africa) – “I’m kinda thrown aback at how mesmerizing the productions are and how very easily one is absorbed and engaged into each track’s journey as it unfolds. A unique sonic canvas.”
- James Hayford (Earwig / Filtered Deluxe) – Gorgeous record! Sounds like Cocteau Twins or This Mortal Coil making ambient music.”
- DJ Dragonfly – “Gossamer and cautiously gritty, these melancholy soundscapes are the perfect mood-makers for the aching dusk of 2020.”
- Di Costa (West Radio, Greece) – “Beautiful ambient soundscapes … a truly hypnotizing listening experience from start to finish.”
- Shortee & Faust (Heavy Artillery) – “Brilliant work from top to bottom … warm, emotive and loaded with cinematic character.”
- Alex Ridley (Re:Define Records) – “Serene. Perfect relaxing music for times as tough as these.”
- Will Sumsuch (Colour and Pitch) – “So beautiful.”
- Duncan Stark (AmbiDECKstrous) – “I’ve been listening to more music without beats, and the luscious layers on these tracks really resonate with me. Beautifully crafted pieces.”
- Paul Chillage (XFM, Dublin) – “There’s too many superlatives to describe this release to be honest. I’ll give you one: outstanding!”
- Adam Cruz (Freedom Radio Hour) – “I’m loving this album and its superb soundscapes. I’m reminded of Tangerine Dream — soothing and imaginative.”
- Xan Phillips (103.9 Voice FM) – “We need artists like Ralph Kinsella, someone who reminds us that music is a wave, a feeling, a mood that doesn’t need a vocal compliment.”