Ricardo Alves – Hope
South American ambient songwriter and recording artist Ricardo Alves’s full length album Hope is a testament to what a talented composer in this genre can accomplish. This is a varied and highly imaginative work that takes risks, doesn’t abandon traditional musical elements entirely, and retains keen-eyed and eared artistic focus. The album features fourteen tracks laden with a surprising variety of moods, but the atmosphere remains intense throughout even in the album’s comparatively lighter moments. The songs have condensed lengths and a remarkable quality of, even then, never seeming like they are even that long. This is surely attributable to Alves’ sharp fixation on keeping things on point and the production details each individual part of the tracks with clarity that makes things accessible throughout. Hope is an electronic album that devotees of the genre will greatly enjoy, but it’s also a great album for people who have never before given the style much of a chance.
The album is driven by dark tracks move slowly through a variety of moods. No matter the tone of the song, Alves never rushes the development of anything. The title cut “Hope in Tomorrow”, “I Cannot Travel Very Far On My Own”, and “The Insignificance of Our Lives” never dive into outright despair and often decorated with surprisingly melodic passages. The middle song of the three just listed, in particular, stands out from the rest thanks to the gently melodic piano running throughout the track. There’s an even darker pallor settled over later tracks like “Unsettling Mind”, “Fibonacci”, and “Too Soon”. The first of those songs is among the album’s most expansive, but it remains resolutely intense throughout. The impressive thing about these tracks overall is the fluid orchestration that Alves brings to bear on their arrangements. The second of those three tracks, “Fibonacci”, illustrates this quality quite well. There’s quite an ominous gait to the song that opens it and closes it while rarely allowing the spirit to lighten during its duration.
There is a brighter hue to some of the tracks and that quality is largely related to the synthesizer sound and, particularly, the percussion. “First Bounce”, “They’re Having Fun”, and “Music Will Save You” are good examples of these tracks. The latter two are specifically unique because they initially lure the listener into believing that the emotional thrust will take one direction before switching gears into a different pose. “Music Will Save You” builds on that dark direction for a little longer than the second song, but it ultimately strikes more of an exultant note of survival than anything particularly hopeful or even cheerful. There are some interesting hybrids that occupy track listing space alongside these aforementioned songs. “Sentimental Landscape” is a great example of how skillfully Alves can invoke traditional forms of music within an unusual context. Hope is a challenging album of rare distinction. The fourteen songs that make it up never miss and the attention he obviously shows in the order of songs pays off quite well for the listener.
9 out of 10 stars