Ramona Falls is Brent Knopf's first solo venture, but he has an extensive musical resume as part of trio Menomena. His debut release, Intuit, was written and performed by Brent, with guest appearances by 35 friends (including members of The Helio Sequence, Mirah, Loch Lomond, 31 Knots, Talkdemonic, Nice Nice, Tracker, Dat'r, Dear Reader, 3 Leg Torso, and Matt Sheehy).
Ramona Falls is beautiful. Seriously, check it out on Google Earth some time. A multi-tiered waterfall in a dark glen on the slopes of Mount Hood in Oregon, it's one of those endlessly photographable landforms that makes you want to be there any time you see a shot of it. As a sort of shorthand for the natural majesty of the Pacific Northwest, the name works well for Portland's Ramona Falls, aka Brent Knopf of Menomena and a huge cast of his friends. In fact, of the various Menomena side projects, this is the one that most matches that band in terms of both sound and quality, paying meticulous attention to sonic and compositional details to emerge with a record full of memorable surprises.
Sometimes it's just an unexpected element that mails a song all the way home, like the impromptu choir that suddenly emerges from the acoustic guitar and spaciously recorded drums of "Bellyfulla" or the unbelievably gorgeous violin part that shines like a vibrant light from the center of "Russia". The violin melody interacts with the chord sequence to grow more aching by the second and turns a decent song into one you can't forget. Knopf is piano player and programmer for Menomena, and he comes up with some wild stuff here, especially on "Always Right", where he sticks you with these bizarre, stuttering phrases for the odd-metered verses. It's offset by big choruses and a strange Eastern European-ish bridge with a carnivalesque atmosphere. More simple is "Boy Ant", a short piano instrumental with a sense of melody derived more from traditional European songs like "Edelweiss" than anything in contemporary pop sphere.
Any Menomena fan will recognize Knopf's voice, which is a delicate instrument-- it's not rangy, but he knows his capabilities and uses them. He gives himself a bit of electronic assistance on "I Say Fever", falling down a processing rabbit hole on the title refrain, which precipitates a sudden downpour of heavy guitar. Sleater-Kinney's Janet Weiss provides the song's pounding rhythmic floor, but Knopf's own piano gives it its funky stride. Knopf's solo songs share with Menomena an ear for contrast--"Going Once, Going Twice" swings between easy-flowing passages and lurching sections that build tension for the next rhythmic release.
Intuit, a word that nicely serves as a homophone for "Into It", works as a title for the album because it so neatly seems to describe the writing process-- very few of the odd shifts and unexpected turns in the songs sound contrived or forced. Down to the cover art, it feels like a strong echo of everything great about Knopf's primary band. There are no cut-outs or flipbooks, but Theo Ellsworth's elaborate, grotesque illustrations are worth taking in-- they're like a combination of Where the Wild Things Are, a fever dream, a pagan woodland ceremony, and a notebook doodle. The music is worth taking in, too, over and over again.
— Joe Tangari, September 3, 2009