Strange Ranger: Pure Music (Fire Talk) | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Strange Ranger

Pure Music

Fire Talk

Jul 21, 2023 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Strange Ranger has never seemed to stop moving. Founding members Isaac Eiger and Fred Nixon grew up in Montana before making their way to Portland, where they debuted under the name Sioux Falls with their 2016 record, Rot Forever. After changing their name to Strange Ranger, the band returned with an expansive double LP, 2017’s Daymoon. Finally, the band’s breakthrough moment came in 2019 when they relocated to Philadelphia, expanded their line-up, and released their excellent ‘90s-indebted third LP, Remembering the Rockets.

This year, the band has once again moved on, now split between Philadelphia and New York, and they have once again reinvented themselves with their latest album, Pure Music. The record traces another alternate history for the band, bringing out influences from house, trip hop, disco, and electronica. The club is their latest venue, so the album ensconces their layers of shoegaze guitars and boundless synth textures within trippy loops, hypnotic breakbeats, and an ocean of choppy samples. At points on the record, they manage to find a mercurial crossroads between acid-fried Madchester haze, My Bloody Valentine-style shoegaze, and the indie experimentalist fervor of bands like Spirit of the Beehive.

It makes for a novel shift for the band, but one that feels very in much in line with their restless stylistic progression. Fans got a taste of this style with their 2021 mixtape No Light in Heaven, which teased the band’s latest reinvention in a more abstract and scattershot form. In contrast, Pure Music is smooth and seamless, with each track flowing effortlessly into the next一in both transitions and tone. The existential meditations and spacious sonics of “Rain So Hard” make for a blissful marriage with the wistful tones and cascading guitars on “She’s On Fire.” In turn, that track sets the stage for “Dream,” which finds the band layering dramatic keys and spacious trip hop beats into the mix, bolstered by pulsing synths and chopped samples.

The record continues on in this vein, conjuring a decadent swirl of indie pop, electronica, and indie rock with special care paid to the lush production and detailed mixing. The album thrives in the details, from the quiet rainfall and captivating beat switch on “Fantasy,” to the jazzy sax soloing that colors “Blush” and “Way Out.” The band is chasing euphoria on Pure Music, making for a record that both reaches for the rafters and feels meant for insular headphone listening.

The record’s lyrics occupy a similarly uncanny space, meditating on confusion and uncertainty while yearning for something deeper. Much of the album finds the band in between states, a fitting liminal element given that it was written as Eiger and bandmate and co-vocalist Fiona Woodman were in the process of breaking up. “Rain So Hard” fuses these themes and imagines heartache as a cinematic drama, with Eiger singing, “Now everything just runs backwards/And forwards all the time” and Woodman responding “How do I get out of this movie now?”

Similarly, the band once again strikes on an aching nostalgic element, seeking a place of belonging, joy, or connection. Memory proves a constant companion throughout the album. “Blue Shade” finds Eiger confessing, “Heaven is lost and found in open range/Higher love in cyclic ultraviolet waves/And your memory is a roadblock in my way.” In contrast, on “She’s on Fire” Eiger begs, “Stay just one day/Try to feel the same.” Meanwhile, the accompanying warm glow and twilit haze leave the listener immersed in a decadent and unplaceable longing.

Every music fan likely has a memory they associate with “pure music,” be it the apex of a carefully crafted album, a frenzied rave high, or a blistering pit. Those moments are what animates Strange Ranger’s latest album. The truest escape the band seems to find is in music at its most euphoric, and there is a sense that they are attempting to pull transcendence from the world of basslines and trancelike rhythms. They confess as such with “Ask Me About My Love Life”: “I cannot shake this odd sensation I’m in motion/But I’m parked/And I’m sinking in the bass line like a footstep in the dark/I want to wade into the water/Never end and never start.” Pure Music invites the listener into those depths, offering a dose of Strange Ranger at their most potent, polished, and adventurous. (www.strangeranger.bandcamp.com)

Author rating: 8.5/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10



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