Wooden Rings cycling through emotions with haunting off-kilter popBy Britt Julious Chicago Tribune“The eerie, methodical construction of Wooden Rings’ music sounds characteristically Chicago. This lush, multilayered brand of chamber pop might not be the most popular sound in town, but its roots can be found in acts who’ve grabbed national and international acclaim.The first that comes to mind is the quiet and composed Andrew Bird but comparisons tend to reduce the vision of the artist. And in Wooden Rings, the brainchild of Ramah Jihan Malebranche, the vision is precise and haunting in its beauty and strength.Born in Haiti but raised on and off here and his homeland, Malebranche’s music sounds pulled from a variety of different sources and ideas, all flowing together to create off-kilter pop that bends and weaves rather than pushing straight from verse to chorus. Malebranche’s clear vision can be heard throughout his songs.On the 2013 “Twisted & Tangled” EP, the lonesome, contemplative lyrics of Malebranche couple lovingly with eerie, piercing wind instruments and flourishes of steady guitar. The songs are as classic as any other — about the trajectory of an old relationship — but the construction and unique instrumentation elevates the music to something much more interesting, even profound in its beauty. More than anything, Malebranche writes with heart — a heavy one — making his music the kind that sticks with you long after you hear it. That he hasn’t found more acclaim feels like a fluke, yet something that can be rectified with just the right push.Malebranche’s new project is “Heliocentric,” a reflection of his current personal and professional state of mind. “I just realized I can’t keep singing about this music and my struggles getting over this relationship,” he said. For one, he is married to someone new.Heliocentric means sun-centered, so this new material touches on this dark and desolate season and how Malebranche’s need for the sun trickles down to his personal friendships and relationships.“I was originally born on an island in the Caribbean, and so every winter I go through this cycle of really missing that and needing to see color and needing physical contact and reassurance. Just this whole cycle of emotions,” Malebranche said about his new material. “There is a seasonal tilt to the way I feel and how rigid I am. Our winters in Chicago have become very severe and almost knee-jerk winters. They’re not as smooth as they used to be. I have a feeling I’m not alone in this.”From a professional standpoint, Malebranche defines the new material as a better reflection of the band’s lineup: Peter Burger V, Jon Ozaksut and Nathan Staley, with occasional assistance from Joshua Torrey, Andrew Zelm and Keith Bjorklund.The songwriting process is more collaborative, pulling not just from the psyche of Malebranche but from band members as well. But more than that, the work reflects a new outlook for Malebranche. No longer is he creating the sort of affectingly somber chamber pop that reflects on his past love. He’s moved on and so the music must as well. What that means remains to be heard as the project is still evolving. Hopefully it won’t strip Wooden Rings of what makes its sound so compelling: a strong vision and endless amounts of heart.”
Wooden Rings just played The Morning Shift today and Tony Sarabia was so easy to talk to. Thanks to Tony and to all the crew for listening. It’s such an amazing complex at Navy Pier. Take a listen: http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia 5.8.13 Wooden Rings: Live on WBEZ
“Wooden Rings, an eclectic and ambitious ensemble from Chicago, have managed to encapsulate a sound so uniquely diverse, it quickly finds roots in the hearts of any honest music fan. Although their sound is self-described as “acoustic chamber pop,” the amount of honesty and emotion expelled through their music creates such a direct connection to the listener that it’s as if their songs were being written just for you.”
Wooden Rings is so much more than the typical chamber pop ensemble, and their unique approach to arranging has quickly attracted the local media. ‘Finding Me’ left us breathlessly searching for answers. That and other introspective tracks from 2012′s self-titled debut inspired interviews on WXRT’s Local Anesthetic, WTTW’s Chicago Tonight and WBEZ’s Morning Shift with Tony Sarabia. Part of the allure is the lyrics — “Well worn, engraved, familiar but strange, the rings we wore everyday…” it’s that ability they have to take the everyday object and turn it into something tangible and communicative, that is memorable. It’s the translucent beauty of acoustic strings that introduce so many of their soulful ballads as well as the collection of instruments that blend and deepen the theme: xylophone to reed, nylon string to electric bass. We’re whipped through a myriad of emotions when vocalist /songwriter Ramah D. Jihan Malebranche sings the chilling refrain in ‘When I Knew.’ With four tracks on their current EP, which was recorded at Electrical Audio here in Chicago and will be released this month at Old Town School of Folk Music, Wooden Rings is eager to share more of their bounty.
Chicago TonightCulture Web Extra: Profile of Local BandWooden Rings to perform at Lakeview East Festival of the ArtsLindsay Prossnitz | September 7, 2012 12:45 pmLocal band Wooden Rings is performing this weekend at the Lakeview East Festival of the Arts. This four-member ensemble is starting to make waves with their unique, eclectic sound that was recently showcased on XRT’s Local Anesthetic show. The band is comprised of Ramah Jihan on vocals and lead guitar, Justin Rodig on supporting vocals, clarinet, banjo and bells, Brett Bakshis on electric bass and Marissa Deitz on cello. Watch a sneak preview of the band’s performances and listen to the members talk about getting their music off the ground, including securing grant money from the Community Arts Assistance Program.
www.stereopirate.com2012/05“I always am amazed at the subconscious ability music has to shape and change every aspect of our daily lives. Whether it be blaring a feel-good tune with the windows down and the sun shining bright or settling down into the silence and comfort of a bedroom and getting lost in the emotional surges in sound, there always seems to be a time and place for every song that I encounter in my daily life. Sometimes you might hear a song for the first time, and although the mood and atmosphere of your surroundings might not be ideal, there is something special in the song that settles into the musical vault of your mind. Art as an expression of self always has it’s time and place, sometimes it’s just a matter of those personal paths of both the artist and the fan to coincide at just the right moment for a truly-special interaction to occur. With music, there are so many personal and external factors that collaborate to embrace a listening experience that this perfect alignment can be nearly impossible to obtain. But for every musical moment I’ve experienced that might not have had a lasting effect, there is at least one absolute gem that makes all of the personal experiences of sonic art completely worth it.Recently, I had the privilege of being tipped-off about out a relatively-new band out of Chicago entitled Wooden Rings. Seeing how the recommendation came from a member of the stunning folk-rock outfit Wells-next-the-Sea, a band whom I’ve recently fallen in love with due to their incredible single “Chicago” and their freshly-released and captivating Passenger Side EP [Review], I was immediately excited to hear what this fellow Chicago-band was all about. Upon first listen, I was enthralled with their unique and minimal take on acoustic pop sounds. Featuring an “ambitious ensemble, composed of nylon string guitar, clarinet, cello, xylophone, electric bass, and harmonized tenor vocals..,” the eclectic acoustic outfit Wooden Rings have managed to encapsulate a sound so uniquely-diverse, it quickly finds roots in the hearts of any honest music fan. Although their sound is self-described as “acoustic chamber pop,” the amount of honesty and emotion expelled through their music creates such a direct connection to the listener that it’s as-if their songs were being written just for you. Amidst all of the beautiful compositions of sounds found on their debut self-titled release, none of the tunes seems to resonate more in my current life than the minimal ballad “Finding Me.” With a name appropriate for a soundtrack to any personal introspection, “Finding Me” is an intimate expression of feelings through the delicate balance of words and sounds. The minimal nature of the tune, demonstrated with the rich and full sound being generated by only a few stringed instruments, provides the perfect backing sounds to compliment the heart-felt words expressed throughout. It’s as if the emotional toll taken on oneself from the complexities of a relationship has become to burdensome to bear, forcing an expression of feelings through sound. Using the acoustic sounds of the stringed instruments as a foundation for an emotional plea for clarity in the most complex and confusing moments in life, Wooden Rings are able to create a musical masterpiece that provides the perfect comfort in a time of aural needs. As expressed by lead vocalist Ramah Jihan, the beautiful chorus of “…If loosing you meant finding me tonight, I have to choose before first light…” provides a intimate insight into the relationship struggles that we all manage to face at least once in our life. The constant struggle to maintain our own composure and sense of self-worth is never easy, yet there is always optimism and hope as demonstrated throughout the beautiful sounds of “Finding Me.” Much like the title of the song suggests, sometimes before we can ever do anything to help others to find clarity, we must first find the inner pillars of ourselves. Sometimes this introspective journey will last days to years, but in the end it is always worth it.While the majority of the songs I post here are more or less singles or individual tracks recently-created my musicians, “Finding Me” is somewhat of an exception as it is just one track off of a 9-song symphony of minimal acoustic sounds. Although this might be the one song that has resonated the most for me lately, I keep finding myself returning to the entire full-length self-titled debut from Wooden Rings and discovering something warm and comforting in every song. As much as each song carries a unique identity of its own, their is an over-arching consistency of sound that manages to bring all of the songs together, like a beautiful scene in a puzzle being constructed in front of your eyes. Even though each song has a singular structure upon which layers of delicate, acoustic sounds of artfully built, the final construction takes the sonic form of whatever becomes clear to each individual listener. For as much music that’s being fed over and over again through the pollution of the radio and TV waves, its comforting to find peace and tranquility in the sounds of a band whom you’ve never had the pleasure of hearing before. For those who are searching for that special song to take their mind off the complexities of life, Wooden Rings have provided an escape through the captivating and enthralling sounds found throughout their debut Wooden Rings album. Although I cannot promise resolution to the problems and issues controlling your personal life, I can provide the ultimate expression of sound to calm the senses and create a temporary break from the world. Take a break from the non-sense that fills our everyday lives and enjoy the sounds of one of the most promising and inspiring young bands I’ve had the pleasuring of listening to: Wooden Rings.”
2012/05“The debut of Wooden Rings which sounds like nothing I’ve heard out of Chicago in a while, if ever. Vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Ramah Jihan Malebranche is coming out of a Fairport Convention/Renaissance/acoustic Yes vibe that would sound annoyingly precious in lesser hands.” “Heartfelt and heart breaking.” “The best music I’ve heard come out of Chicago all year”-Richard Milne (DJ/Host of Local Anesthetic) 2012“There’s a feeling of light footsteps on a forest floor to the sound of Wooden Rings‘ eponymous debut. Kind of like the purpose of getting thru these woods is to do so as quietly as possible. I don’t hear it so much as an attempt to avoid disturbing the forest and it’s plants and creatures but in an effort to more closely be at one with the surroundings. Deep, huh? Yeah, I can fool ya sometimes but I love the gentleness of this record as much as I’m taken with it’s heart and soul. Can’t quite commit to saying it’ll be an Anesthetic Best Of for 2012 but it won’t be to far out of the running.Ramah Jihan is the principal songwriter, vocalist and guitarist in Wooden Rings (with one track composed by multi-instrumentalist Justin Rodig) but this is a full band effort. No electric guitar/bass/drum outfit here, though. Nylon string guitar, cello, banjo, bells, clarinet, and electric bass all blend nicely to create that walk-softly-in-the-forest sound. No other band I know of in Chicago sounds quite like Wooden Rings and that alone should intrigue you to tune in for music and conversation with Ramah Jihan of Wooden Rings on this week’s Local Anesthetic, Sunday night at 7:30, here on XRT.”- Richard Milne 8/12/12http://wxrt.cbslocal.com/2012/08/10/wooden-rings-on-this-weeks-anesthetic/
This project is partially supported by a Community Arts Assistance Project grant from the city of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events and the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.