Album Review: RNDM - 'Ghost Riding'.
Comprised of Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament, songwriter Joseph Arthur and drummer Richard Stuverud, RNDM was born from the bones of two of its protagonist’s former projects; Three Fish. Ament and Stuverud met accomplished solo performer Arther while the pair were performing at a Three Fish gig in New York, and with mutual admiration, a bond was formed, that eventually lead to the formation of RNDM. Releasing their debut album in 2012, ‘Ghost Riding’ is the follow-up to ‘Acts’.
Musically referencing the likes of Arcade Fire, Mercury Rev, Gorillaz and the post-punk ‘War’-era U2, RNDM is far removed from its most famous participant’s day job holding down the low end for the gargantuan grunge icons formerly known as Mookie Blaylock. No strangers to moving the goal posts themselves, Pearl Jam may be home to Ament, but here he gets to try on a markedly different kind of musical hat.
Opener ‘Comfortable’ sets the scene, and with its electronic beats and ambient aura, it’s a good indicator of what’s to follow. Containing the most obvious references to Damon Albarn’s cartoon outfit, it’s followed by the altogether more sober ‘Dreaming Your Life Away’. Dark and dramatic, it’s the shade to ‘Comfortable’s light.
The upbeat title track follows, with Edge-like guitar harmonics underpinning layered Mercury Rev-style vocals. It’s simply beautiful, and coming next to the new wave keys of ‘Got To Survive’, what’s apparent is that these tracks don’t so much as shout, as arrive. The latter is a perfect example of this approach, where eighties synths give way to a grooving, laid back dance beat and some of the funkiest guitars on the album.
Nothing is overstated on ‘Ghost Riding’, and whether veering from textured bass noodlings (‘Stray’) to rumbling distorted anchoring (‘Stumbling Man’), Ament’s playing melds perfectly with the swirling backdrops provided by Arthur and Stuverud. This is no better demonstrated than on the electro- tones of ‘Bruma’, and the driving ‘Kingdom In The Sky’.
It’s toward the end however, that the album really begins to lift, and perfectly suited to its subject matter, the funky ‘NYC Freaks’ rides on a groove which conjures images of late night sticky New York City streets and Studio 54. Arthur meanwhile, reveals his talents as a soloist, in the songs closing guitar licks.
The best however, is saved until last, and the intensely moving ‘Stronger Man’ adds liberal piano and widescreen effects to the already impressive sonic pallet thus far revealed. Cinamatic in scope, with a particularly emotive vocal from Arthur that is complemented by strings and female backing vocals, it’s the album’s stand out.
Rounded out by the closing ‘Trouble’, ‘Ghost Rider’ is an understated, and in places perfectly subdued release. Sometimes a welcome break is needed from the onslaught, and RNDM offer just that. Music designed to quietly creep under the skin, rather than bullishly announce its presence, file under ‘subtle grower’.
By Eamon O'Neill.
Also published on myglobalmind.com, April 2016.