There’s nothing that can’t be improved by adding an orchestra. Stockholm duo Roll the Dice was already an industry favorite, thanks in great part to their 2011 breakthrough album, In Dust. Until Silence puts them over the top. This is sonic experimentation at its finest: a risk-taking album that bears the air of the sublime.
While this is a beat-and-tempo album, it’s not a dance album. One would need to travel to an underground nightclub in order to find people willing to move in the way this music might demand. Instead, it’s an album of mood and mystery. The mood is established early with the darkly repetitive “Blood In, Blood Out”, a track which connects this work to In Dust while holding onto the trump card. It’s not until five minutes into the subsequent track that the new timbres appear. At that point – keeping in mind that “Assembly” is ten minutes long – the strings take center stage, no longer content to serve in the backup role. Their staccato sound bears echoes of Krzysztof Penderecki, whose influence has also been felt in modern works by Daniel Bjarnason and Jonny Greenwood. We don’t expect to find such modern innovation in “popular” electronic music, but it’s extremely welcome, a new sound that has little precedent in the field. 26 sets of strings enter a loop of melody and counterpoint, the pulse quickens, the blood races around the veins.
Peder Mannerfelt says of the album, “It’s the push and pull of being in the middle of something massive, chaotic and brutal, mixed with feelings of loss and total resignation.” And yet, the album also contains hints of the triumphant. It’s hard to hear the clash of swelling and staccato strings without thinking of battle. The technique worked for These New Puritans a few years back, who cemented the association with the words, “We want war.” And while war is on the minds of Mannerfelt and Malcolm Pardon, so is rhythm, which produces an odd juxtaposition of military cadence and nodding head. We’re still not dancing to “Coup de Grace”, but the desire is there. And this is when we realize what’s missing: there is no drum. A bass pulse occupies the space normally reserved for percussion.
Even in the midst of chaos, moments of beauty can be found. The soft-toned “Aridity” concludes the first record with a sound reminiscent of Art of Noise’s “Moments in Love.” The second set of grooves rises from the same sand, introducing additional electronics and building to a melodramatic peak with the propulsive “Perpetual Motion”, the closest thing to a single found on either slab of plastic. Layer upon layer is added until the entire structure collapses in a jagged heap. “Haunted Piano” eases the listener to the nearby ground, enervated, but grateful for the experience. (Richard Allen)
Release date: 2 June