Beautiful My Child
The bluesy, organic sound of the acoustic and slide guitar is not what you'd expect to hear in the hi-tech world of modern electronica and trip-hop but that's exactly what made the album Euphoria such an unexpected success in 1999. Now Toronto's Ken Ramm returns with a second Euphoria project called Beautiful My Child which continues this surprising and colorful fusion.
The album has a definite contemporary sound, thanks in part to William Orbit and Madonna's drummer Steve Sidelnyk, who provides both live drumming and electronic percussion programming, and Garry Hughes' state-of-the-art production and keyboard skills. But Ken Ramm's blend of slide guitar and acoustic guitar with electronics might give fans of early 1970s psychedelia a bit of an audio flashback. "Euphoria definitely has a little of that bent," Ramm says. "But it's not so keyboard-driven; it's more about the slide guitar, and the blues being placed against that electronic background."
Beautiful My Child might actually be a musical grandchild of classic Pink Floyd, both their acoustic and more influential electronic works. "That little keyboard sound - that 'ping'- from Meddle has been sampled so many times," Ken says, "by The Orb and a lot of others. The acoustic sound, Ken points out, seems to be part of the Canadian culture (see Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, etc.). But Euphoria has a foot in the UK as well. Many of the guest musicians on Beautiful My Child are fixtures on the London scene: producer Garry Hughes works with Björk, and some of the ambient pedal steel tracks are by the redoubtable B.J. Cole. There are also echoes of older London performers. "Bert Jansch, Fairport Convention, Pentangle - all of that came out in this album a bit," Ramm says. He points especially to the string-snapping guitar of "Cactus", one of the album's two "unplugged" tracks. "Desert Drive", a trancey but still largely acoustic song, reminds some of England's ill-fated Nick Drake. And the album's first single, "Sweet Rain", takes its inspiration from Jimmy Page's version of the English folksong "Blackwaterside".
Despite its acoustic sound and blues-derived guitar licks, "Sweet Rain" rocks. And in general, Ken Ramm acknowledges, "Euphoria seems to be falling into the rock section of the stores, not electronica." But that hasn't stopped the electronica world from taking notice. In fact, there are already three remixes of "Sweet Rain", one each by Garry Hughes, Fila Brazillia, and Faze Action.
As if the fusion of roots-based guitar and trip-hop weren't enough, Euphoria also reflects Ken Ramm's other musical interests. "In the Pink" features vocals by Gabriela Tucker-Bull and Maddy Willis, who provides some Gospel-inflected singing on both this and the first Euphoria album. Willis and fellow singer Gayle Day offer some classic R&B vocals on the song "By the Sea", a song that takes some wah-wah guitar sounds and makes them contemporary. Perhaps the most unusual track on Beautiful My Child is "1001 Dreams", a big, quasi-orchestral trip that's a mix of James Bond soundtracks and music from the Arab world. But the tune hosts some musical touches that can only be described as Euphoric, such as B.J. Cole's atmospheric pedal steel, the ambient dance grooves, and the brief snatches of voice and melody.
On the track "Outside", Ken Ramm offers an inventive blend of modern electronica with its 1970s ancestor, psychedelia. Rhythmic acoustic guitars, snatches of taped sounds (some backwards), and vintage-sounding electric keyboards create a textural piece without a conventional melody. It's something that would be at home in Tangerine Dream's early albums as in today's chill-out clubs.
At the end of the day though, even with all the other musical influences, Euphoria is very much a Ken Ramm project. Whether that makes this a one-man band is another question. "Well, I write about 90% of it," he says (Garry Hughes co-wrote some of the music); "so maybe it revolves around me. But there are some people I use on a regular basis. In my mind, Maddy (Willis) is in the band, for example. I guess it's a kind of benevolent dictatorship."
About The CD
Euphoria are pioneers of the unique sound dubbed 'guitronica'. Euphoria's new album Beautiful My Child, features the group's signature combination of acoustic slide guitar and propulsive beats. Their latest single, "Sweet Rain", builds upon their success at radio (and the impressive retail response generated by "Delirium", last year's breakout instrumental from Euphoria), with sustained airplay in Denver, Boulder, San Francisco, Seattle and Minnesota yielding strong sales in those markets.
Euphoria comprises Toronto-based composer/instrumentalist Ken Ramm, as produced by Garry Hughes (producer of Vitamin C, who's also worked with Art Of Noise, Garbage, and Sly & Robbie); the group's profile was recently enhanced by the use of their music in the Infiniti SUV ad campaign.