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REVIEW: Rolo Tomassi – Astraea

Posted on Thursday, 8 November by

It’s fair to say musical experimentation is rare nowadays. As our audible senses slowly become adapted to cheesy pop synthlines, rehashed bass wobs and generic lyrics about becoming inebriated on your best friend’s sofa, the need for something different, something special only becomes greater.

Sheffield’s Rolo Tomassi understood this six years ago. Their debut ‘Hysterics’ was like nothing ever heard before, a brutal yet beautiful blend of jazz, mathcore, experimental rock and atmospheric synths fronted by the powerful screams and ethereal lulls of frontwoman Eva Spence. This formed what at the time could only be described as ‘noise’ by the ignorant and ‘genius’ by those of us that understood music has no boundaries. 2010’s follow-up ‘Cosmology’ only proved that this was a band unwilling to be tied down as they pushed their schizophrenic sound further.

Coming in with their third record ‘Astraea’, Rolo have in some ways restrained themselves if that was ever deemed possible. Their sound has become more focused though it hasn’t become compromised remaining as sporadic as ever.

Opening track ‘Howl’ begins with a haunting synth line before dropping into Eva’s famous screams. New guitarist Chris Cayford retains Rolo’s furiously unpredictable guitar leads throughout the record shifting from finger twiddling riffs to punishing panic chords to reverb-laden soundscapes, often within a single song.
‘Ex Luna Scientia’ sounds like something straight from a horror movie before effortlessly melting into a beautiful synth-laden bridge as Eva softly sings “The practice of misleading, every measure unforeseen”.

Just like their previous records ‘Astraea’ is just as misleading as it is brilliant, consistently leading you into a false sense of serenity before throwing you off the top of the mountain you just climbed as seen in ‘Prelude II (Echolalia)’, ‘Echopraxia’ and ‘Empiresk’. Final track ‘Illuminare’ condenses Rolo Tomassi’s unique sound into what I can only describe as seven minutes of atmospheric elation including some of Eva’s best clean vocals to date.

There is no denying Rolo Tomassi should be commended for their continuing boldness in pushing experimentation to its absolute limits. This is an album (and a band) that deserves your attention blending unpredictability with raw musical talent creating what can only be described as comfort in chaos. It’s difficult to put ‘Astraea’ into words; it has to be heard to be understood.

Ultimately ‘Astraea’ is that slap across the face that brings you to your senses, that literally screams at you that there is so much more than what you hear on the radio. Open your ears and minds; become lost in this beautiful madness.

‘Astraea’ is available for purchase now.

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Arun Chamba

Arun Chamba

Music Critic at SQ Magazine
21-year-old English graduate from the University of Hull and music critic at SQ Magazine since 2012. Gigs. Friends. Traveling. Writing. Life.
Arun Chamba

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