Rolo Tomassi – Cosmology (2010): Review

Part of Rolo Tomassi’s charm is that they don’t look remotely like they sound. Most new listeners would scan their group photos and suggest that they are more allied to gentle synth pop with a lead singer who could be a twee English version of Nina Persson. One will never know if this clever deception is deliberate but the Sheffield quintet can unleash some of the most furious, audacious and unrepentantly loud noises mixed with oddly haunting bitter sweet textures that highlight singer Eva Spence’s virtue to flip nonchalantly between both throat shredding doomsday merchant and perfectly pitched angelic upstart in an instant. The fact that she combines these vocal facets so effectively is partly the reason why the band’s second long player “Cosmology” is such a richly rewarding experience.

M.I.A producer Diplo is there as a guiding hand rather than a creative force, encouraging the band’s ambitions. The chilling slow burning instrumental intro “Katzenklavier” builds the sense of unease as it rips into the two most maniacal hardcore moments of the album in “Agamemnon” and “House House Casanova”. Early candidate for signature (if not highlight) tune is the thrilling “Party Wounds” which sees Eva and brother/keyboardist James Spence vocally battling it out for supremacy. James sounds like a human attempting to sound other worldly; Eva just sounds…other worldly, and wins, but not without leaving us with an exhilarating exploration into the heart of what makes Rolo Tomassi such an alluring band.

There’s a genuine momentum to the album, as the band travel from the explosive front end to a latter half that displays an almost celestial, wholly explorative mesh of prog rock, with complex rhythms and fluid tempo changes. “Kasia” is beautifully sweet all enveloping instrumental that bursts into Eva’s snarling with an almost psychotic vehemence. “Sakia” freely changes time signal five times in the first minute and a half, and yet still sounds surprisingly linear, such is the expertise of the band. Indeed, for their part much credit must go to the band members, gloriously exemplified by “Tongue In Chic”. Edward Dutton offers up dynamic, challenging rhythms, whilst guitarist Joe Nicholson works in a technically brilliant solo behind Eva’s vocal, and James Spence keeps the keyboards deliberately simple, often holding the melody together. The anthemic closer, and title track show just how far the band have come over the past three years, and given their tender ages, one feels sure that this is the stepping stone to something even greater in the next few years.

As long as Rolo Tomassi can maintain their sense of artistic freedom and Hassle Records have the patience to let them develop at their own pace, then the opportunities are endless and one feels that they are on the cusp of making an astounding record. Let’s hope it’s their next one. For now, “Cosmology” is far more than a work in progress.

8/10

1 Katzenklavier 1:04
2 Agamemnon 1:40
3 House House Casanova 1:15
4 Party Wounds 3:14
5 Unromance 4:03
6 French Hotel 2:52
7 Kasia 5:31
8 Sakia 3:17
9 Tongue-in-Chic 5:11
10 Cosmology 7:43

Party Wounds

Kasia/Sakia

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