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Published: 2004/04/27
by Mike Greenhaus

From the Vine, volume I – raneFrom the Vine, volume II – raneThe Hope Seed – rane

For over eight years, rane has been leading a double-life. Opening for organic poppers Jump Little Children and Rusted Root, rane plays song-oriented, acoustic based music, complete with catchy hooks and radio-ready choruses. Sharing the stage with The Disco Biscuits, rane could be mistaken for a full-fledged jamband, incorporating electronica, prog-rock, and psychedelia into their extended medleys. So it makes sense that rane's most recent release is actually several distinctly different albums, tied together more by their players than their sound.

Based in Hartford, Connecticut, rane has been a mainstay on the New England jamband circuit since the late 1990s. Headlining club dates and earning opening spots for everyone from Santana to Wilco, rane are ready for their definitive release, the type of album that can line the stereos of the group's growing collegiate audience. But, given the group's progressive influences and diverse compositions, it's virtually impossible to define rane's style on a single, cohesive album. In fact, it took the quintet five years to truly figure out how to document their live sound. Building their own studio and writing over thirty original compositions, rane eventually created three complete albums, each with an individual sound and distinct mood. While a bit difficult to wade through in one sitting, rane have created three strong, serious efforts, full of jam-pop gems and some potential crossover cuts.

Featuring nine relatively concise songs, From the Vine, volume I is rane’s most reflective album. Based around Ryan Bowman and Alan Veniscofsky’s acoustic-tinged guitars, From the Vine, volume I comes complete with tight harmonies, gentle guitar picking and introspective lyrics — the type of organic pop sure to appease fans of Guster and Dispatch. Highlighted by the catchy "Cat Stevens," Volume I is excellent afternoon music, with subtle bits of space and trance interspersed between more defined rock structures. Hiding hints of their more progressive jams in tighter tracks, Veniscofsky uses his gentle voice to tie Volume I together, stepping back to allow more experimental moments to unfold. Switching moods and time and signatures several times during the same song, the rhythm section of bassist Dan Prindle, drummer Bruce Menard, and percussionist Kurt Rinaldi also get a workout, but manage to hold Volume I together as a single, cohesive album. Backed by a seven-person string section on select tracks, rane also flirts with more baroque sounds, particularly on "No Hablo" and "Cello Jig," using their jazz chops to emphasize more subtle, pastoral sounds.

In sharp contrast to its predecessor, From the Vine, volume II is more indebted to instrumental experimentation than lyrical musings. Utilizing the same instrumentation, including a sea of guest strings, "Broca’s Aphasia" is dense, prog-rock, mixing a series of odd percussion noises. "Hazelnut" mixes dark, ethereal noises from trance into the group’s jazzy jams, birthing a song that must have fit well in a Disco Biscuits’ opening slot. More akin to Pink Floyd than Phishy jambands, From the Vine, volume II is full of extended, dark spacey compositions, not groovy jams. Progressive and carefully structured, Volume II doesn’t meander, but rane do extend their songs with guitar solos and extended opening sequences on songs like "Resort to Whisperings." This closing number also showcases Menard and Rinaldi’s dense percussion, a treat throughout the seven-song album.

But, as can be expected, there is a fair bit of cross-pollination between the From the Vines. "Resort to Whisperings" includes a crisp, acoustic-flavored song amidst a sea of percussion and spacey guitar licks. At times, the track sounds as if a song from Volume I was marooned in the middle of a Volume II jam. Similarly, Bowman’s electric solo in "Placenta" might fit just as well during the climax of "A Single Color": a great hook ready for a organic pop number to give it structure.

Falling somewhere between the From the Vines, The Hope Seed may be rane’s definitive album. Mixings bits of trance, jam-rock, and organic pop into a sleek, single jazzy disc, The Hope Seed marries the From the Vine series. Opening with "Forwards, Onwards," rane let their more pronounced pop-rock tendencies take over, reining in their funk and jazz influences, while still hinting at their roots. Somewhat separate from its siblings, The Hope Seed is the most clearly defined studio disc in this series, further removed from rane’s live sound. While The Hope Seed lacks the mental musings of Volume I or the adventurous experiments of Volume II, the single disc does provide the most complete overview of rane’s musical diversity. "The Rambler" is a fun run through jammy, jazz-influenced rock, while "Sounds of Sleep" comes complete with some breezy bongo bashing. "Center of Ourselves," which overlays Veniscofsky’s vocals over some busy percussion, will likely appease fans of Rusted Root and the Samples — organic pop with some, weathered underground roots.

An interesting recording approach for a young band, rane's three-disc gamble pays off quite well. Like triplets, rane's three most recent releases are inseparable, but clearly individual creations.

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