For being one of the more innovative and intriguing bands of the past ten years, Menomena has been far from the most prolific. The Portland trio has, to date, only released two full-length albums, their incredible debut I Am the Fun Blame Monster and its equally awesome follow-up, 2007’s Friend and Foe. They’ve also offered up an EP or two, and a companion piece to a dance performance titled Under an Hour, but it’s safe to say nobody will confuse anyone in the band for Robert Pollard anytime soon. That said, pretty much everything they’ve done to this point has been consistently good, not to mention unique.
The next Menomena release may still be far off on the horizon, for all I know, but band member Brent Knopf has a new project by the name of Ramona Falls which, in spite of being an entirely new project, still features much of the muscular, arty quirk of his other band, with a new, playful aspect added to the mix. While Ramona Falls could, technically, be viewed as a solo project, considering the songs are written and performed by Knopf, they feature contributions from more than 35 other musicians from bands such as Talkdemonic, Loch Lomond, 31 Knots and The Helio Sequence. And as one might expect from an album that invites so many different contributors to lend their distinctive touches to these 11 tracks, Intuit, Ramona Falls’ debut, is an album that displays a diverse array of sounds while showing off Knopf’s distinctive songwriting talents.
Waltzing opener “Melectric” is initially a delicate affair, with plinking pianos and strummy mandolins, but it builds up into an elaborate and gorgeous pop song, more elegant and baroque than his rhythmic indie rock compositions of the past. “I Say Fever,” however, is a noisier and heavier-hitting track with snapping drums and a trippy piano hook that could have been pulled right from either of Menomena’s excellent albums. Yet its the burst of horns that explodes later in the song that really makes it an excellent bit of avant pop. “Russia” opens with muted acoustic riffs before soaring into a hypnotic, string-laden soup of sonic delights. And the outstanding “Salt Sack,” as well, starts off sounding like a ballad before erupting into a heady mix of horns, pianos and all kinds of backward-tracked instruments.
Outside of the context of the band for which he is best known, Brent Knopf proves his talents and then some on the incredible Intuit. It’s a solid pop record, one that’s a little more delicate than might have been expected. But when each layer piles on top of the next and even the slightest songs explode into woozy epics, Knopf reveals his versatility, sounding equally amazing on his own as he does with his full-time collaborators.
MP3: “I Say Fever”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.