Release Date: Mar 4, 2016
Record label: RCA
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Contemporary Singer/Songwriter
The story behind the creation of Ourouboros (named after an ancient symbol depicting a serpent eating it's own tail), the sixth album from Ray LaMontagne, almost deserves a review in its own right. Find it. It will blow your mind. Thankfully what we're actually dealing with here is a mighty fine album, a return to form some might say, from a singer-songwriter who seems to have been around forever, but at the same time still be pushing the boundaries of possibility with his considerable talent.
“Never going to hear this song on the radio,” Ray Lamontagne sings at the close of his new album. If that sounds like a complaint, in context it reads more like a boast. Lamontagne has seemingly fashioned his sixth album, Ouroboros, as a work of private exploration, a vehicle for divining the inner life far more than a product designed to glad-hand its way up the pop charts.
After three albums with producer Ethan Johns and a self-produced effort, each offering a shift in sound, Ray LaMontagne brought in the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach for his sonically richer, more psychedelic-leaning fifth LP, Supernova. For his sixth full-length, Ouroboros, the singer/songwriter selected My Morning Jacket's Jim James to co-produce, and moves deeper into the psychedelic haze. LaMontagne shuts down vocal comparisons to Van Morrison here, almost completely abandoning his soulful growl with the exception of parts of "While It Still Beats," a mass of churning guitars that escalates into a choral affair at times recalling the Beatles' "The End.
Who said psychedelic rock is dead? It’s very much alive in the hands of Ray LaMontagne, who has explored many classic-rock styles, but none with better results than in this new foray into psychedelia. He teams up with Jim James of My Morning Jacket to produce a seeming disciple’s tribute to Pink Floyd. This dream-trippy project echoes Floyd in a myriad of ways, from throwback instruments like the Mellotron and Moog synthesizer to the obscure title “Ouroboros,” which made me think of Floyd’s “Ummagumma.
The cover of Ray LaMontagne's sixth album shows one celestial body eclipsing another. It's an apt visual: Ouroboros is worlds away from the Americana LaMontagne started out playing, in the far reaches of a more psychedelic galaxy. Produced by My Morning Jacket's Jim James, it channels a spacey, atmospheric 60s and 70s full of shimmering haze. But while James's production is brilliant - he's deft at creating compelling ambience - atmosphere alone can't make a great rock album.