Review: richardaingram – Valehouse

coverI experience Valehouse as if through a rainy window on a dismal day. Shapes refract through droplets of water. Colours recede into the grey of the sky and the empty streets. This album captures the sensation of omnipresent fatigue: when the weather presses down on the world below, causing everything from buildings to civilian morale to develop an unhealthy stoop. The synthesisers are worn and withering, reluctant to dwell within Ingram’s washed out minor keys for too long. Melodies flicker out like the silent complaints of dying street lamps. Extracts of old cassette tapes descend like rain dribbling down glass, sombre and semi-shapeless, while drum samples stutter as computer processors slump into malfunction, waterlogged beyond repair.

What renders Valehouse an even more melancholic prospect are the allusions to a more illustrious music in a former life: the astral ambience on “2.1”, the nightclub throb on “2.3”, the reverent organ swells on “2.2.01.e”. They feel bleak when pitched against a day like this. The ambience has been muffled by analogue decay; the club music is an emaciated scaffold of bass drum and intermittent loop, limping around in circles without gathering momentum; the aqueous orchestration manifests as puddles smeared across the pavements, shimmering with the cold yellow of artificial light. One sound in particular bounces around my head once Valehouse comes to a close: it’s somewhere between a digital whale and a bowed trash can lid, writhing through the album’s final stages as a wretched electronic moan, doing its utmost to wriggle out of Ingram’s omnipresent monochromy. But where is there to go?