Constantinople became Istanbul, Datsun became Nissan, Prince became a glyph for a bit, then became Prince again. Now ontopsych has become Monist. What’s in a name? Apparently, a lot. While a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet, if one calls a lover by the wrong name, look out. In ancient times, people believed that names had power. Even today, some names imply status while others imply servitude.
ontopsych’s plunderphonic EP New World Music: An Archaeology was reviewed by Jeremy in Electronic Observations. That EP can now be found under the Monist moniker, along with the sequel, New Romans: A History. As for ontopsych, it is now the name of Adam Klein’s more vocal aspect. Separating the two was a wise idea, as the sounds are quite different. Ironically, monism is a philosophical belief that there is only one substance from which all things are made.
Who are the new romans? Monist has another semantic trick up his sleeve. At first, one assumes that the sampled classical snippets must be Italian (a few seem to be), or that the titles reference Roman history (true of “Lux Natura” and “Veronese”, but not “Copernican”, as Copernicus is Prussian), or that the album is a tribute to the Roman Catholic Church (that’s Jesus on the cover, choirs appear on “Lux Natura” and “Copernican”, and one track is named “Annunciation”). But New Rome is – wait for it – the city that became Constantinople. In this case, it seems that everything is in the name.
As for the music, New Romans: A History is much more cohesive than its predecessor, remaining in the same sonic bracket throughout. The plundering is smoother, as is the track-to-track flow. Lead track (and lead single) “Plastic Arts” boasts a symphonic flourish, a cascade of bells and a consistent beat, serving as an overture to the full project. But the beauty of these classically-influenced pieces is that despite their brief length, they seldom remain static throughout. “Invention” begins with a rush of brass and strings, but loops into a second series of loops, then a third, before resetting. “Deposition” begins like a clock, with a clear tempo and a double string line; at 1:05 the beat stops and a more pensive series of snippets is introduced. One begins to wonder how the album might sound as an extended mix, with all songs bleeding together. The Avalanches’ Since I Left You never spawned a sequel; the opportunity is there, if Monist wants to take it. (Richard Allen)