Radagast the Brown - The More They Tell Me About You, The Less I Believe Them (Album Review)


Radagast the Brown is a fictional character in J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium, but also the moniker of ambient composer and producer Ezekiel James Hampton from Napa, California. The godfather of ambient music, Brian Eno, once described that genre as being "as ignorable as it is interesting.", yet the beauty present across Radagast the Brown's latest album "The More They Tell Me About You, The Less I Believe Them" is far from ignorable. Instead, piano, synths, guitar, and field recordings combine across six epic tracks of cavernous depth and daredevil experimentation that explore the limits of time and space. 

On the opening title track, a piano refrain loops around diaphanous vocals, guitar, and odd-sounds swirl before falling into the expansive mix. The repetition, a common component in ambient and neoclassical genres, is somewhat reminiscent of William Basinski, though where Basinski's recordings are highly conceptual, Radagast the Brown is concerned with literal beauty. There is no haughtiness to this music, and one can simply get lost in the art.


"Your Presence In Fractals" is a much less discernible track, with the structures stretched out and manipulated so as to disappear. Again, there is a sense of playing with time and space, the tangible elements creating continuously expanding and retracting corners for the music to exist inside. At nearly eight minutes, it is the shortest track on the collection and perhaps one that says the least but adds the most texture. 

"Buoy Blues For The Fishers Of Men" unfolds slowly with washes of pads and arpeggiated synth before guest guitarist Leland Vandermeulen tickles sparkling strings. Audio samples of what sounds like an old film are mixed with bells knelling and seagulls mewing. Guitar lines are repeated and looped, and, in the middle, the track finds a plateau. The music seems to cease, and windchimes and crashing waves put us in a peculiar scene that turns to thunder and lightning. The buttercup music that preceded turns into a darker and more mysterious environment, melancholic but hopeful, with lush and melodic strikes rising from the waves. It is an emotionally charged track that gently guides the listener through a nautical wonderland filled with moments of struggle and ecstasy. 

"Erosions Mechanisms Precipitate The Decline" starts as a simple and lovely piano-led number before the construct of time is shifted into a cosmic landscape wherein twinkling keys, ominous whispers, and uneasy synths create a disorienting mood. The closing track, "Evasive Coda To The False Construct", is perhaps the most beguiling, with its playful piano and steadfast lushness playing host to a buffet of medicinal sounds. 

At nearly eighty minutes, "TMTTMAYTLIBT" is epic in scope but not so much in concept. From the so-so cover art to the lifted moniker of the artist, it's challenging to make coherent cultural or artistic associations with these oddly titled tracks. Of course, one should never judge a book by its cover, and a rose by any other name is still a rose, but for the listener, music as abstract and vague as experimental ambient can only benefit from thoughtful branding. The music here, however, is transportive and unashamedly pretty, and its scope ensures an absorbing and enriching listening experience.