Raymond Scott Woolson: The View From Boggins Heights (Independent, 2005)

by Brent

Raymond Scott Woolson The View From Boggins HeightsI don’t know a great deal about Raymond Scott Woolson. He is not signed to a label, and has no buzz machine pumping out sleek media promotions for him. But, what I do know of Woolson are his painstaking, home-made, ethereal ambient musical creations. After releasing two full-lengths chock full of dreamy compositions, the prolific Woolson has released his strongest and most aesthetically pleasing work. Entitled The View From Boggins Heights, with a subtitle that says “Music for my kindred in kilter”, this 9 track swirls around the listener in delayed guitars, soothing keyboards, and wistful sonics for 1 hour. This time, Woolson varies his production just a bit, adding more keyboards and exploring different elements of instrumental ambient music while retaining a steady cohesive flow of washed out beauty for the listener. Woolson has also increased his recording capacities so much that only the very trained ear can note that the album is actually crafted at home, rather than a proper studio. Woolson’s guitars shimmer and explode while his keyboards dance effortlessly over long jams of haunting drones, proving that he has mastered not only the art of writing beautiful instrumental music, but the art of recording it as well.

Despite the glut of “instrumental/ambient/dreamy” bands out there, it’s actually a little difficult to compare The View From Boggins Heights with other works, because Woolson’s style is a little off-kilter, perhaps due to the individualistic nature of the creation the CD. The easiest reference one can make to The View From Boggins Heights is to say that it sounds at times like a lighter, more breezy Hammock (such as on the majestic album closer “And Wayfayers ALL”…12 minutes of a hypnotic melody played by absolutely gorgeous guitars and keys…the song also ends with the sound of recorded ocean waves, the same sound that the CD opens with). However, Woolson tends to mix in a stronger song structure compared to Hammock, and his songs, though generally lighter in terms melody, also have a little more direction and focus to them. Other obvious references to Woolson’s sound may include Windy and Carl, with the echoing guitars, or perhaps even the dreamy moments of Slowdive, sans vocals, of course. After the waves subside on “Bringing Margot the Sun”, the song gradually expands into a wide open offering of dreamy guitars and layers of underlying sounds. These combine to usher in the perfect soundtrack to watching the sun rise, as the song subtly builds in intensity as elements are added. Woolson really shines on this song, as he does on “Selina’s Bonfire”, a more intense study in shoegazery guitars and darker melodies. Woolson’s light side appears most readily on songs like “The Audobon Print for Ken”, with its floating keyboard melody, and especially “Dear Wanda”, with throws the listener for a bit of a loop with its acoustic guitar, subtle drumming, and gliding keyboard work. However, even though Woolson ably handles the softer and more standard side of his music so well, he really shines when he allows his sound to overrun the capacities of convention. “Wheels Whirling On a Red Plastic Motorcycle” is a key example of this, as Woolson plays to a nice layered climax of various sounds, flooding the listener with beautiful noise. The track subsides to distant sounds of children playing, and the opening looped guitar strain of the mind-boggling “Wooden Tony: Lamented, Resurrected” begin. This song continues on with strange but fascinating sounds, until they explode into a glorious rush of sound. Woolson lets loose, overwhelming the listener with huge layers of guitars and keyboards, while his electronic drums pound out a feverish rhythm. The song is an excellent indication of the confidence that Woolson has developed since his previous releases, as he is now able to execute and capture a huge sound on tape, enveloping the listener powerfully.

Indeed, maybe I know more about Woolson than I realize, for music-making, especially when done in obscurity and in solitude like Woolson, is such an intimate affair. On The View From Boggins Heights, Raymond Scott Woolson is able to share his heart, vision, and emotions through his well-written ambient compositions. And I’m not sure if there’s a better compliment for Woolson at this time, because, unlike its predecessors, there is no explaining away any perceived deficiencies of recording for The View From Boggins Heights. Woolson has been able to make a CD that, on the surface, is unhindered by technological restraints, rendering it able to be judged by its own standards of excellency. And, judging The View From Boggins Heights on its own, the CD stands as a beautiful treatment into the possibilities of the instrumental dream-ambient world.

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