Thomas Ragsdale works in the shadows, but tries to bring light whenever he dives in. His musical worlds are vast, dense, and seem to attempt to make sense of existential questions we present to ourselves on a daily basis. His albums carry with them the intensity of early 70s Tangerine Dream and the lucrative sonic riches of Underworld, all the while creating something wholly his own. From ambient soundscapes to dance floor freedom, Ragsdale brings a sense of widescreen brilliance each time.
There’s also a prolific output with Thomas Ragsdale. It seems he’s constantly in the studio building and creating records. Since October of 2018, he’s released three albums under his own name, as well as a Ffion EP with his fiance and co-label runner Ashleigh. The first of those releases, Honley Civic Archives Volume 1 was an organic, string-led Gothic take on modern folk horror. Ambient textures mixed with stark pieces that felt like a score to a Grimm fairy tale.
Thomas Ragsdale has returned with the equally engaging and cinematic Honley Civic Archives Volume 2. With this sequel LP, Ragsdale goes even bigger and more vast. Less organic and Gothic, Volume 2 is more interstellar and widescreen. We’ve traded the shadowy Yorkshire villages for the wider canvas of space and time.
“Claws of the Horde” opens Volume 2 on a striking note. Beautifully desolate and cinematic in its reach, it does what Ragsdale does best: pulls you in and never lets go. “Ulterior Motives” is subtle and melancholy, like the last man on the planet playing the last piano on the planet in an old, dilapidated concert hall. “Inner Recesses” seems to emanate from some cavernous realm. It’s as if some extraterrestrial light is escaping a tear in the universe. It’s over before you can snap a picture.
A good portion of Honley Civic Archives Volume 2 is small snapshots. With most of the tracks falling below the three minute mark, these pieces feel like fleeting ideas; a mind in the throes of a discussion with itself. Something like “The Keeper” and its electric piano steps from the dark just long enough to walk us into the sublime “The Cruelest Intentions”, with its bee swarm noise and lilting piano. “The Patient” is very cinematic, as if Vangelis and Trent Reznor scored some lost Tarkovsky film.
The final track is the epic and nearly 9-minute “The Evil Within”. A swirl of synth and noise come together beautifully in a cacophony of sound, giving the feeling that we’re slipping away. This is truly a magnificent way to disintegrate into the universe. If ya gotta go, hopefully it can sound as big as this.
Thomas Ragsdale continues his prolific run of creativity with the sonic delight that is Honley Civic Archives Volume 2. It’s yet another masterful album filled with widescreen scope and darker emotional spaces. It’s existential contemplation and contentment in finding the not-so pleasant conclusions.
8.1 out of 10
Honley Civic Archives Volume 2 arrives 3/22 via Soundtracking The Void. Preorder the special edition here.