Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Roman Remains Recasts A Duke Spirit

Roman Remains
Hearing This Stone Is Starting To Bleed for the the first time can be especially mesmerizing if you know it was produced by two long-time alternative rockers formerly known as The Duke Spirit. Now, recast as Roman Remains, Liela Moss and Toby Butler have stumbled onto an eclectic and frenzied mix of electro, dance, and industrial.

Stumbled might even be the right word given that neither of them could see making such an album two years ago. They were too busy working as The Duke Spirit, continuing a slow and steady ascension that spanned almost a decade. But the band wasn't affording them much freedom.

"I'd been wanting to experiment with different writing methods, specifically on electronic instruments, for some time but wasn't sure where to begin" explains Butler. "Then I bumped into friend Simon Byrt (co-producer) and talked about what I wanted to do."

The two of them started working on some ideas together at Byrt's studio in London and Butler eventually discovered something without so many limitations. It felt like busting open a hundred doors and finally having the chance to look behind them all, he said.

Meanwhile, Moss was continuing to expand her range too. For the first time in her career, her obscure and beautiful words could be laid across a different kind of music. The result was an entirely new tableau of music. And as a first look from their upcoming debut album, Zeal, This Stone Is Starting To Bleed speaks volumes about how she has managed to fit it all together.

Although the track leans toward more fiery and frenetic pop, the alternative arrangements and haunting lyrics are still largely intact. Except, in this case, they seem to be intact with a broad range of sounds, instruments, and percussion.

'The words are born out of my favorite experiences of the last two years or so, many spent travelling and outside, with me in a pretty observant and aware frame of mind," says Moss. "[They are] from Los Angeles where you see all that orange and purple bougainvillea caress the sharp edges of those crooked cement sidewalks, to steep glossy mountainsides in the Himalayas where I spent a month last monsoon."

It was in those places that Moss put headphones on and started to compose lyrics that fit within Butler's instrumental framework. Sometimes, it was listening to his banging electronic vignettes in random places that would inspire something deep within her or billowing all around her.

"You can't miss out on the metaphors that all the terrain and colors provide," she says. "It's a cornucopia but the shit and glorious untamedness is there too. I've fallen out of love with the city and just want to cut loose over some open spaces."

There might be a bit of irony to her meaning. While many people look upon electro, dance, and industrial as urban components, Roman Remains see them as an opportunity to become more feral. What is especially worthwhile about that direction for the band is that they've always sounded better untamed than when they tried to constrain themselves.

Even on Bruiser, it was their beatific ferocity that provided the high points of their musical arsenal. Both co-producer Byrt and mixer Damian Taylor (Bjork, Austra, UNKLE) have helped them do exactly that. It brings together Moss and her earthy, sometimes sarcastic spirit and some unpredictable swerves and skittishness that Butler has wanted to bring to life for a long time.

This Stone Is Starting To Bleed Bangs 8.2 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

This Stone Is Starting To Bleed transcends into a genre of its own making. It's shakily bass laden and psychologically trippy — breaking up the monotony of too much imitation.

You can pick up This Stone Is Starting To Bleed by Roman Remains from iTunes. The band also quietly put out the Energy You EP without the benefit of tying it to The Duke Spirit. It provides even more insight into the upcoming album Zeal, even if This Stone Is Starting To Bleed is the only track that will make it onto the 11-track album due out in March. You can also find the single and Energy You EP on Amazon.
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