Raymond Scott Woolson – Broken Things Mended

Raymond Scott Woolson - Broken Things Mended

Usually the phrase one-man band conjures thoughts of a guy on stage with either a guitar or keyboard, a tambourine tied to his leg, a harmonica harnessed to his neck, and a kick drum at foot, making a living more from spectacle than from any sort of memorable music. Raymond Scott Woolson is a one-man band, but in almost the completely opposite sense. Instead of sounding like a busker, Woolson produces enough layers with guitars, bass, keyboards, and drums to compete with any conventional multi-person band. With no live show, his work exists only in recorded form, and this work speaks for itself, unsupported by promotional images of his face or statements of purpose. Entirely instrumental and home-recorded, Woolson’s music is refreshingly free of scene or pretense. This freedom extends that feeling of freshness to the music, which surges upward in slow-building layers of guitars which sparkle brightly before diffusing into the upper reaches of the atmosphere.

Woolson has developed a strong reputation among a small legion of geeky music fans as one of the best artists working within the ethereal instrumental rock zone. These are fans that don’t care how he presents himself or what label he’s on, just that his music hits that sweet spot. His records consistently do just that – while never striking a bad note – and make grand gestures seem both effortless and effervescent. He combines the huge but personal sound of incremental post-rockers Mogwai with the serene maximalist washes of electronic artists like Ulrich Schnauss. Even as Broken Things Mended often escalates into exuberant climaxes, it achieves a rare thing by feeling as relaxing as it does energizing, making a great space for a clarity of consciousness to develop.

But this is all true of all of Woolson’s albums. What makes Broken Things Mended even better than the rest of his stellar discography is Woolson’s obvious artistic growth. Lead track “Future Self Portraits” jumps off the page as Woolson’s poppiest track, buoyed not only by a nimble lead riff, but a rhythm section jauntier than he’s brought to the table previously, cycling through spacious breaks and rushing bursts to the point of transcendent overload, all in under five minutes. “Bring Your Whirlwinds With You” lapses into a ferocious break – easily the heaviest moment Woolson has put to tape – that brilliantly slips in a false stop and even falser restart before the main theme returns as light as a cloud and a pogoing riff dances the song out. “Awake O Sleeper in the Fields” even seems to drop the guitars in favor of a meditation of piano, synthetic instruments, and field recordings. The last half of the album hears some of Woolson’s most pastoral melodies (“Every Unrequited”) alongside some of his deepest psych passages (“Moving Up Day”). But for an album so overflowing in layers and sheets of sound, even the darker moments are eventually leavened by glory, leaving one with the feeling that everything is going to be alright, if not in every fact and detail, at least in the overall scheme of things.

Eschewing simple dreaminess, Broken Things Mended beckons the listener to wake up and feel invigorated by life in the moment. It sounds both massive and light, turbulent and calm, comprehensive and immediate. If you’re at all a fan of grandly expansive rock and aren’t afraid of positive emotions, Broken Things Mended has the power to fulfill its promise of healing. Woolson makes it as simple as sitting there and opening your ears – your heart will soon follow.

Raymond Scott Woolson

Randy’s Alternative Music