Lee Ranaldo

Amarillo Ramp (For Robert Smithson)

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The Amarillo Ramp is an enormous land sculpture created in 1973 by the artist Robert Smithson just outside the small panhandle city of Amarillo, TX. Pictured on the front of Lee Ranaldo's fifth solo album, the Amarillo Ramp is a circular elevation that slowly builds from ground level to a sort of peak. It's a lovely thing, as is Ranaldo's half-hour instrumental of the same title, which builds on a similar structure, gradually moving from absolute stillness to a slowly-building climax, as Ranaldo loops short guitar phrases and layers them atop one another. Bearing a surprising resemblance to Philip Glass' earliest works (although the actual recording process is much closer to Robert Fripp's Frippertronics methods), "Amarillo Ramp" is one of Ranaldo's most impressive achievements. The other four pieces sound rather like leftovers in comparison, but they're not without merit. "Non-Site #3" is a fractious jam with fellow Sonic Youth folks Thurston Moore and Steve Shelley, while the acoustic instrumental "Here" sounds very much like Ranaldo's acknowledged hero John Fahey. The two vocal pieces, "Notebook" and a faithful but unilluminating cover of John Lennon's "Isolation," are less essential, but, overall, this is a terrific and adventurous album for experimental rock fans.

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