Max Ramsden’s first release on Hush Hush Records opens with a short, evocative instrumental. Neither ambient nor minimalist, it nonetheless serves as an engaging, contemplative primer. The two-minute long “Dwell” may be improbably titled, but it is beautifully conceived.
What comes next is even better. Muldue delivers lush, dreamy singer-songwriter pop that’s said to be inspired by England’s historic Stratford-upon-Avon. Ramsden was born in the country’s Ribble Valley district, north-east of Liverpool. A Place Both Foreign and Familiar is his third release since putting down roots in the medieval town.
Due Melodies of a Concrete Soul landed in 2015, featuring three short introspective ambient pieces. That was followed by A Cruel Light From Below one year later. We heard Ramsden’s understated vocals for the first time on the warm, wistful “Light.” Both are available as name-your-price downloads on Bandcamp.
It’s tempting to portray the three recordings as a Stratford-upon-Avon trilogy. I’m hesitant to do so because this new release is just so much better. That’s not meant to be a knock on either of its predecessors. They can be fairly described as a pair of impressive debuts.
A Place Both Foreign and Familiar is the work of a rapidly maturing artist. While “Light” introduced him as a vocalist, Ramsden has found his voice on this dazzling collection of new songs.
He has gained confidence behind the microphone, and with his acoustic guitar, to such an extent that one wonders if he can continue to progress on such a steep trajectory.
“Platform 4” is achingly beautiful. When he sings about “listening to a National song,” it’s hard not to picture the two acts sharing a stage.
“I Tried” is another stunner, pairing a shimmering guitar with atmospheric synths. Again though, Ramsden’s vocals are the main attraction. He sings with deep emotion, in a genuinely relatable style.
The EP closes – all too quickly – with the equally lovely “Belong.” With any luck, we’ll hear more from Ramsden again soon.