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Rolo Tomassi
Cosmology John Calvert , May 27th, 2010 10:19

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When in 2008 Rolo Tomassi were obliged to step up to the plate and unleash a long-player, they appeared, surprisingly, to constrict themselves. Their response to the swell of gathering acclaim was tangibly uptight, the dynamic sound they had defined during the previous year either choked by careful planning, or buried by audacious overkill. The heavy-minded doomsday scenario that was Hysterics fell onto our desks as something of an abominable, unyielding creation.

In a recent Quietus interview the band intimated a slight dissatisfaction with their debut, particularly with how the songs played in a wired live setting. James Spence sees Cosmology as "an opportunity to set right the short-comings of that album, and make a set of songs that worked better", which is why their next choice for producer is perversely ideal.

As a hit-maker and chameleonic pluralist, Diplo's arrival promised a certain pop succulence and a rash of cheap hooks. But as a dance producer and capable mixologist (handy for the job of making sense of the avant punks' rhythmic intricacies) it was even more intriguing to think a volatile new dance/rock hybrid might be in the making. Alas, if we were expecting, say, Coltrane-meets-Alex Empire, danceable studio-warped craziness, Melt Banana via John Zorn or TDEP with beats (God help our nerves) the Philadelphian's input is almost imperceptible. As a guiding spirit and creative conduit though, it seems he's helped to clear the air. Ultimately, though, it's down to the band's intelligence and iron will that Cosmology is a genuine tour de force, returning Rolo Tomassi to very vanguard of extreme rock.

Carried in on celestial synths, they begin in earnest with maniacal opener 'Agamemnon' and its snapping-jaw guitar, with death growl / palm mute fest 'House House Casanova' hot on its tail. Math micro-tunes sternly administered and puritanically shorn of the rock vulgarity that was creeping on to Hysterics, both tracks speak of a rejuvenated unit. 'Party Wounds' is contrastingly a progression for the band. Cleaner structurally, the tangents have momentum, purpose and even an notion of 4/4 funk, and are perfect tension builders for the whoomp moments orientated around a loud / quiet structure. Over leaden riffage and organ-setting synths the Spence siblings become embroiled in a battling duologue, which has worked like gangbusters every time they've ever tried it. Basically, 'Party Wounds' is wholly effective - linear, fluid, organic and eloquent amidst the chaos. Crucially it breathes - a restored sense of nuance that has to be partially attributed to Diplo's landscaping.

Mathcore conjures notions of complex physics, agnosticism hard sci-fi, metallurgy and all types of things that make prog its superficially improbable ally. Chiefly though, this horrible little development in music expresses psychosis, the kind induced by exploring the language of the universe for the meaning of life yet never solving the equation. Perhaps the reason why 'Cosmology' opts to conclude in the fantastical is because - as many a scientist might attest – Rolo Tomassi's only chance for sanity lies in the stars. It's a sad song that finishes in loneliness, but freedom for the authors, and us.

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Jay
May 27, 2010 4:30pm

Stunning album, should be right up there with Crystal Castles LP2 & Holy Fuck's Latin. The only two album this year that haven't disapointed or lost their grasp after 2/3 listens.

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Jeff
May 29, 2010 5:32am

"Puritanically shorn" is a phrase that should never accurately describe anything that can be called "rock". This is the contradiction at the heart of punk.

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