stuart arnot on the roman nose lp

“This Roman Nose LP exists in two modes simultaneously: as the most exact rationalisation of fifty years of vernacular underground music practices – free jazz, improvised music, punkish tape sprawl, fourth world psych-folk, noise – bundling, overlaying and knotting up these threads to the point that their separation seems to have been a protracted accident of history; and as an entirely new world unto itself, rendering all cultural referents moot, or at least distractions from the thing in itself, from the ambiguous crux of unnameable emotions elicited by the record’s unravelling, gnarled arabesques.

As often as not, it is impossible for the auditor to identify precisely what instrumentation is responsible for any given sound. This is not to suggest that these recordings are mushy: clarity ebbs and flows, sounds surround and envelop the listener then sit back; strings, pipes and breath coalesce and disintegrate; percussive elements explode in the most (simultaneously) apposite and unexpected manners, cutting through the mix, sitting astride it, altering entirely the frame of the music. The music is at once spacious and claustrophobically heavy, cinematic in its depth, but with its peaks pushed uncomfortably close. The spatial, tonal, timbral and textural palettes combine to construct a musical world at once serene, foreboding and joyous, both agrarian and industrial, as bare and lovely as soil, as warm and unforgiving as the furnace. The maintenance of the tension between these conflicting feelings across the nine pieces (that nevertheless exist as coherent and differentiated entities) is remarkable.

It is also impossible to determine the extent to which the pieces are scored, improvised or constructed a posteriori. This glorious ambiguity about the processes in play serves to channel listening away from the barren plains of listening-as-decoding and towards the rock pools and morasses of listening-as-demiurgy, involving and implicating the listener in breathing her own life into the substances presented to her. The listener collaborates with Roman Nose’s four players to create music that seems to exist at a cusp on which the individuals’ subjectivities are perpetually gasping their last before assumption into a never-to-be-realised collective subjecthood. The authorial centre is not so much decentred as dehisced, opening this music to improbable, strange riches of paradox and impossibility.”

Stuart Arnot (Total Vermin)