Rhythm & Views

John Convertino

Improbably, the latest side project to emerge from the Calexico family tree is a one-man effort from the drummer. Ragland is a strange, dark, lo-fi collection of instrumentals recorded with only three instruments: piano, vibraphone and drums. Convertino plays all three himself, and recorded all of it in his living room. The result is 12 unique tracks unified by a spacious, delicate slowness and a curious degree of ambient noise. At points, if you listen carefully, you can hear the birds outside his house.

Those hoping to find even a trace of the Calexico sound on this record will find themselves out of luck, save the drums, which are unmistakably the excellent Convertino. Most of it is not particularly melodic, and it's difficult to remember how any of the tracks go, even immediately after listening to one. What's memorable is the mood and the feel; it's a reliably evocative album and will likely grow on those who give it a patient listen.

It has its gorgeous moments. On "Piston," the vibraphone is played with a slow vibrato on its long, lingering notes; the result is a sound as haunting as Mike Oldfield's soundtrack from The Exorcist. "Bell Curves" is striking in its originality, and fans of Convertino's drumming will be dazzled by his sudden, free-form flourishes. Nestled among these 11 original compositions is one cover; amusingly, it is "Home on the Range." In general, Ragland sparkles, albeit in unfamiliar colors, and is certainly worth owning.

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