Big Weather, the latest effort from musician/composer/drummer Ryan Rumery, posits itself as an experiental response to “ever-intensifying natural phenomena.” The Colorado-based outfit’s new record, The Lightest Darkness, is an interesting point of departure and, while the duo – longtime Rumery collaborator Josh DeSmidt fills out the roles – toys with thoughts of expansion and weather fronts on its post-rock-ish instrumentals, it doesn’t allow itself to be weighed down by the conceit of it all. Wise move. The resulting sound-scenes, accordingly, offer a glimmer of hope and optimism to storm-laden commentary.
The post-rock on which the seven-track pseudo-EP/ LP cuts its cloud-teeth are dreamy and ethereal, frequently floating somewhere in the stratosphere with airy guitar work and lightly recorded percussion. Though the palette includes acoustic and electric guitars, bass, drums and electronics, its presentation is pretty uncluttered – think early/mid-90s Pell Mell by way of a more guitar-centric Watter. The band does once or twice go a little heavy on the synth (the opening and closing third act, for example, of the Frisell-ish “Crumar”) but, for the most part, this is easy-peezy listening, and – take the precisely rendered math-pop of “Thom Is Heard” – perfect for playing with the car windows rolled down and the landscape blurring alongside you.
The astute listener will see Rumery’s signature on much of the understated but precise drum-work herein, as well as the leads – sometimes synth, sometimes guitar – planted in place of vocal harmony. In that, this echoes Rumery’s work with Christian Frederickson and Jason Noble on The Painted Bird – brilliant stuff, intensely worth tracking down – though this work is not quite as ambitious as those song-suites.
For all of the places this thing takes you in its roughly 30 minutes, though, my favorite track remains the first – the knotted “Elbow,” with its woven guitar-and-bass interplay. The song is optimistic to the point of triumphant which, while often hard to stomach, comes off as innocently bright-eyed and eager here. It’s the opposite of obtuse; it glows in its humming accessibility. Sure, sure, it might not explain if Al Gore will ever be able to declare victory in his mission to educate the world about Earth’s changing climate. But, it does deliver on one Big promise – it sounds mighty good.