Ricardo Alves’ full length ambient album Hope is an evocative fourteen track effort. Despite the fact that it is instrumental, Alves’ compositions are atmospheric but never self-indulgent. They also make excellent use of dynamics and flow nicely from assertive to more quiet passages without ever losing their way. The song titles are instructive about what Alves’ aims are and there’s quite a bit of intelligence driving his thematic explorations. The electronic nature of the recording might suggest that it is an icy, potentially distant affair, but the compositions engage the listener from the outset and his target audience will revel in their accessibility. The strength of the album is considerable enough, furthermore, that listeners who normally disdain such efforts will be drawn in if they give the collection a chance.
The album’s nominal title track, “Hope In Tomorrow”, opens the release. It is a muted, artfully orchestrated song that runs a little over four minutes in length but plays much more compact and focused. It has great atmospherics that are a hallmark of the release as a whole. The second track, “Desire”, opens with an extended introduction that mixes a yearning human voice with a sustained keyboard note before dimming. It immediately shifts into an intensely rhythmic, but understated, ambient second half with assorted lulls and peaks. “I Cannot Travel Very Far On My Own” is built around a warm percussion pulse and elegant, often lyrical, electric piano that weaves its way in and out of the rhythm. It is one of the most thoughtful and meditative tracks on the album and the structure of the song embody the vulnerability implied by the title.
“The Insignificance of Our Lives” has a warm electronic swirl and natural sounding drumming that whips up a great snap for propelling the song forward. The percussion also gives the song a beefy bottom end that suggests immense gravitas, even nobility. The pulse is much more scattered on the next track, “Sentimental Landscape”, but Alves’ creativity is forever restless and introduces a new sound on this track. The slowly evolving brass melody, likely accomplished via synthesizer, gives it a heated urban feel, never frantic, but slowly sweltering. “Music Will Save You”, despite its relatively exultant title, is the album’s moodiest track thus far and has an impressively haunted quality. There’s much more uplift in the album’s penultimate track, “The Dreams I Had”, thanks to how its bright synthesizer lines swell out of the mix. The second half of the song shifts into a much terser texture than the first half. Hope concludes with, perhaps, its most experimental number yet. “My Life” spends its opening moving at a surprisingly mid-tempo pace, but the structure soon morphs and breaks down into more unpredictable dynamics.
Ricardo Alves has achieved something quiet unique and singular with this release. The fourteen tracks compromising Hope certainly aren’t the first ambient release in popular music history, far from it, but Alves has managed quite nicely to compose a group of songs that seem much shorter and more condensed than their running times suggest. The absence of clear cut melodies and acoustic instrumentation is no bother; Alves’ songs never try listeners’ patience and are structured quite intelligently.
9 out of 10 stars