Ricardo Alves – Hope
The fourteen song ambient collection from Ricardo Alves, Hope, is a highly artful musical statement in a genre that is often derided or pre-judged as self-indulgent. The bulk of the songs on Hope are filled with intense emotions and moods that veer from bleak, icy hopelessness to quiet yearning and all points in between. The primary instrument driving these songs is, naturally, synthesizer, but the electronica conjures up a variety of other sounds that are surprisingly natural sounding despite their origin. Electric piano, brass sounds, and an assortment of percussion tones are well utilized in Alves’ attempt to weave mood and musical coherence together in one package. The ambient variations that Alves summons over the course of this collection has a great arrangement of colors and tempos that aren’t presented in an outright aggressive manner, but rise to claustrophobic levels at certain points.
Hope begins with a very illustrative contrast. The title song “Hope in Tomorrow” and the second track “Desire” is a sharp juxtaposition of emotional bents. The former has sophisticated, yet direct, electronic orchestration that suggests simmering desperation rather than exuberance and a relatively placid pace that allows listeners to absorb individual passages before moving on to the next. “Desire” percolates with slightly busier percussion than the first track and, while the mood remains a little downcast, there’s a brighter sheen glowing from the keyboard and synth textures. The atmosphere of longing filling this track is undeniable. The evolving upticks and lulls in the track “I Cannot Travel Very Far on My Own” is tied together by beautifully melodic piano bubbling beneath the synthesizer surface. It is the album’s most beautiful track and the aching title alone performs a great service to the work.
“They’re Having Fun” is initially rather deceptive. The threatening electronic sound soon dissipates into an electronic display much more in accord with the track’s title. Electric piano makes another appearance here, but it’s much more restlessly deployed than on the earlier track. There are some tracks when Alves employs what listeners might call, for lack of a better term, anti-crescendos that surprisingly have the same dramatic effect of the opposite effect in mainstream music. “The Insignificance of Our Lives” uses this device much more effectively than any song before this and it comes, appropriately, near the end of the track. It will likely jar listeners on first hearing, but additional plays will deepen the audience’s appreciation for the technique. “Unsettling Mind” is one of the album’s best marriages of title and music. It maintains a steady pace, rising slowly, but undermining the listener’s growing tension with its lack of hitting heights it hints at approaching.
“Fibonacci” has one of the darkest tones of any song on the release. It uses the aforementioned bottoming out of the sound before it returns gradually for the song’s coda. There are certainly moments on Hope where the musical textures are brighter than elsewhere, but the majority of the work has a much more complex, dramatic emotional approach that doesn’t deal in sunny skies and brighter tomorrows. Ricardo Alves has written and recorded an important work in this genre that deserves the largest possible audience.
9 out of 10 stars