David Ralicke says that the genesis of his self-titled debut as Space Between Clouds was a series of drones “designed to sneak by consciousness and lay down in the shadows behind thoughts.” While indeed the final product showcases patience and subtlety, Space Between Clouds is anything but ordinary.
One could say that this music is accommodating, that it can shine either in the background or foreground. But this is true in the way that it is true of great film scores like Vangelis’ Blade Runner or the work of Ryuichi Sakamoto. Analogue and FM synthesizer sequences pulse at 30 BPM––“roughly half the speed of the human resting heart rate,” Ralicke says––beneath saxophone, flugelhorn, clarinet, glockenspiel, all interlocking with textural, environmental sounds. One can sense the camera’s depth of field shifting along with the timbre of a drone, like at the denoument of “Water Cycle.” A rainy windshield, perhaps, comes into focus as synth tones become slowly crystalline. There is a physicality, a texture to each sound, making Space Between Clouds, however ambient, more tangible than otherworldly. The record opens with the sound of keys shuffling, a door opening. Whether we are entering or exiting or somehow both, is left to be pondered over repeated listens.
In the pacing and emotional hues one may note echoes of Harold Budd and Marion Brown or Brian Eno or even contemporaries like Jeremiah Chiu and Marta Sofia Honer. With the latter especially, Space Between Clouds shares a charming sense of the new age promise delivered, beloved tones and timbres artfully rescued from an all-too-often trite form.
For the Midwest-reared, longtime Los Angeles resident, these sounds emerged organically, as a culmination of a lifelong love of music and culture. From Coltrane to Russian Romantic composers, to Jamaican and Latin music––which settled deep into Ralicke’s DNA via his Puerto Rican mother––Ralicke has long reflected on how it all works: “Art is solitary and social at once,” he says. “It is the maker of culture, drawn from deep within the human psyche.”
There are still more reasons why Ralicke’s slowmotion explorations of spiraling dream-tones transcend the ordinary. For decades, Ralicke’s ordinary has meant playing trombone behind Beck, Rodrigo Amarante, and Broken Bells; or saxophone with Devendra Banhart and Cat Power. The list of artists with whom Ralicke has played in fact goes on, unfurling in an almost unbelievable way: Paul McCartney, John Cale, M83, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Van Dyke Parks and so on. As a profoundly in-demand player, it’s no wonder Ralicke has found himself making work about which he says, “no moment leads to the next and rarely is there a return to what was before.”
David Ralicke’s work with all of these artists demands rigor, and perfection. One might imagine that the meditative Space Between Clouds is a sort of relief from those demands, but this is not to say that such rigor and perfection have been left behind. If Space Between Clouds seeks to embed itself in the shadows behind thoughts, it does so precisely and Ralicke executes his vision with staggering expertise.