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- Bathing Music
MP3 Album 2000 (2014 re-issue) | Silber 159
9 tracks, 43 minutes
~ Erin Hucke, Pop Matters
Re-issue of Rllrbll's out of print classic Bathing Music.
: Press Release
: Digital Booklet
: Listen to the album on Bandcamp
: Listen to the album on Spotify
What Are You Crying About?
Wet Food Twice a Day
As Ever Gone and Wasted
Bathing Music is an off kilter experience. Rllrbll teeters towards the edge of absolute collapse only to pull back at the last possible moment. Loopy rhythms, intermingling aspects of rock, jazz, and classical, it all comes together into this satisfying whole. The playful spirit allows the pieces to gain an unconventional beauty. While a number of styles are tried out over the course of the album they all manage to fit into a specific hazy mood. Everything feels like it has a thin coating of dust over it as if these are songs from long ago. This is the power of the clever usage of samples that bind the songs together.
The shadowy opener of “Cockfighter” is a view into their warped world. Impossible to categorize it remains somewhat unsettling. Following on its heels is the unbalanced “What Are You Crying About?” With an uneasy rhythm the percussion works more on mood than it does on keeping a beat. Strings and guitars work together to linger on helping to elongate the passage of time. Vaguely reminiscent of Gastr del Sol’s work the piece pulses with life. As the song proceeds it moves further and further into more energetic realms. Eventually the piece tears itself apart towards the end in a glorious skronk of horns and hyperactive drumming. Lost in a haze is the album highlight “DJ Tecate” whose repetition becomes hypnotic with each small additional loop.
“Wet Food Twice a Day” is the closest Rllrbll gets to a semblance of normalcy and it is still quite bizarre. Finishing the album off on a surreal note is the industrial churn of “As Ever Gone and Wasted”. Bathing Music does it all and does it quite well indeed.
~ Beach Sloth
US band RLLRBLL, for the first 15 or so years of their career operating with the slightly more expanded moniker Rollerball, have been around since 1994, with a score of productions to their name at this point. “Bathing Music” is their third studio production, initially released in 2000 through now defunct label Road Cone Records, and then reissued by US label Silber Records in 2014.
Rollerball is one of those bands that demands a bit from their listeners. An expansive and liberal taste in music in particular, at least judging by the contents of this particular album. This is an album that, by and large, defies typical genre conventions by incorporating material of multiple and rather dramatically different styles and orientations. Even for someone like me, whose taste in music is rather more expansive than what is common, this results in an album that comes across as uneven.
The weak points for me is when the band starts exploring free form and piano driven jazz, as well as when taking on a sparse, hypnotic drum groove placed in a context that doesn’t use it in any, for me at least, meaningful purpose. I can hear what they are doing, and that they are good at it too, but these items, named Osceola, DJ Tecate and Wyoming respectively, fails to interest and intrigue my musical tastes.
But apart from this trio of creations, I found the rest of this production to be an interesting one on multiple levels. From the main marching drums and majestic piano theme on Wet Food Twice a Day to the sickly violin paired off with gentle plucked guitar details and slow drum patterns on What Are You Crying About?, the more electronics based rhythms and distant sax bursts on Moundbuilders and the groove-laden rhythms, electronics and mystical atmosphere of The Knocker. Most compelling of all however, and a truly magnificent tune to my ears, is opening track Cockfighter. A perfect brew of subtly jazz-tinged dark electronica, with clever use of sampled voice effects and dream-laden female lead vocals as the icing on this hypnotic cake, this is a brilliant opening piece and a brief but magnificent journey into the sheer beauty and magic of innovative music.
While I can’t really state that this is a production that will have a broad or general appeal, some of those fascinated by the meeting of mindsets and styles between jazz and electronic based music, and then a blend made with innovative intent and challenging features at that, comes across for me as something of a key audience for this album. A production that, to my mind at least, is one I suspect will be treasured by a niche audience.
~ Olav Martin BjÝrnsen, House of Prog
Bathing Music is the latest release from experimental outfit Rllrbll, on North Carolina's Silber Records. Blending a plethora of genre influences from post-rock to shoegaze, to jazz, to ambient, the nine tracks are a sonic exploration of depth and texture. Weaving together melodic elements with minimal rhythms, the effect is one of a dream state, where sound forms internal images that will be unique to each listener. This is one that everyone needs to give a listen, whether you're into ambient music or not.
~ Floorshime Zipper Boots
What would it sound like if Godspeed You Black Emperor! were a roaming band of gypsies meandering around the western United States with their old marching band instruments? Probably something like Rollerball and their new album Bathing Music. With parts recorded in Portland, San Francisco, Boulder, and Questa, NM, "a roaming band of gypsies" may very well describe the people in Rollerball, not just their sound. The band organically creates multi-layered, textured music that is, more or less, as dynamic and expansive as Godspeed You Black Emperor! while using an eclectic mix of instruments and full-bodied vocals.
The standout track on Bathing Music, "Wyoming," may be one of the most evocative, powerful songs of the year. Oddly, though, this also might be one of their sparsest songs, a piano ballad with two vocalists accompanied by drums, bass, and wind chimes. The song starts out smooth and mellow, concentrating on the male vocals. As the piano part builds speed, the song goes from 1st gear straight to 5th, ploughing through the Wyoming landscape like a herd of buffalo, singing "man crossing the land, opening wounds, conquering cities." As the song slows down again, the song decomposes as the drumming becomes arrhythmic, only to eventually regain focus and, for good measure, repeat the entire cycle (mellow-buffalos-arrhythmic) all over again.
There are several other great songs on the album as well. The opening track, "Cockfighter," marries breathy female French vocals with a taped angry tirade of some guy yelling "you're the stupidest fucking person I've ever met in my life" and "you've got stupid fucking tattoos." The music provides a gorgeous backdrop to the contrasting voices using trumpet, drums, keyboard, and bass. "Wet Food Twice a Day" is another piano ballad, this time sounding much more like cabaret music. The opening is a duet of saxophone and piano with percolating sounds in the background. When the female singing begins, a clarinet floats around the song, sounding like a snakecharmer, as the bass and drums create a swaying, pounding beat.
Many of Rollerball's other songs concentrate entirely on texture. Some are very successful, like "The Knocker" which uses a short, repetitive bassline to anchor some odd, interesting, enveloping atmospheres. However, one or two fall flat, like "What Are You Crying About?" that has piano, xylophone, and violin dancing around each other, doing small figures, without much purpose or effect.
After I first digested this record, I asked fellow fakewriter John Fail if he had heard Rollerball yet, as I figured he might enjoy them. His response was he had heard them for the first time the other day, and "it was fairly fucked up and therefore I liked it." That pretty much encapsulates Rollerball. If you are looking for expansive, dramatic music that is more varied (i.e., "fairly fucked up"), then Bathing Music is for you.
~ Fake Jazz
It is advised NOT to listen to Bathing Music while bathing.
I didn’t actually do any physical research to support this warning I give, but nothing sounds so opposite to relaxation, awakening and cleansing as the grimy, ominous lurkings of Rollerball. I don’t see how you could come out of the tub feeling anything other than suspicious after listening to this. Nothing evokes the filth of the city streets, or the shadows of a dark, sparsely patronized drinking establishment in slow motion. It’s the inner workings of a brain set on the “evil” mode.
Bathing Music is an eerie combination of jazz, electronic, hip-hop and noise music. Not all in that order, exactly. Each song is distinct in sound, but similar in attitude. Some music defies categorization. (That description in itself is a catch-all category.) File Rollerball under “o” for “other.” Music that doesn’t quite fit in. Music that isn’t easily understood, but it’s got something intriguing about it nevertheless.
The songs operate like musical laboratory experiments left to their own devices. Rollerball sets the instruments in motion only to have them stay in motion and become progressively more chaotic. The fluidity of the songs (even literally with water noises underneath the music) connects the contrasting moods and tempos.
At times, it is close to Old World music with clarinets, tambourines and violin in a loose, haphazard arrangement, evoking a demented carnival or circus atmosphere. Other times it is a full-on bombardment of hopelessly disorganized jazz improvisation, complete with horns screeching horribly off-key. It’s goth for the jazz lover, jazz for the indie crowd and experimental music for the pop fanatic.
If you’re starting to think all music sounds the same, or just looking for something different to stick in your CD player, try Bathing Music. Even if the CD doesn’t live up to its name.
~ Erin Hucke, Pop Matters
Eerie sculptings morph naturally into noisefests, dark rumblings counter chiming tones, and live sound interacts with (rather than merely pairs off with) sampled sounds... This is an entirely different Rollerball than you've ever heard, since these four folks are constantly growing and changing. Bathing Music is an ambitiously diverse release of psychologically gnawed songs that range from melodic, piano-driven aches to jazz-damaged, decaying-cabaret smokers to blurred electronic-inflected soundscapes, as assembled by clarinet, bass, drums, trumpet, keys, accordian, voice and samples. While there are special places in my heart for the ambient improv of the We Owned Lions LP and the Einšugige Kirsche EP noisefest, Bathing Music may be their best yet. Dig the full-color folio (a la the Jackie-O CD) featuring Mae Starr's cover painting.
The cool thing about this album is that you can never really tell where these songs are going, or at least I can't. Melancholic ambience is broken up by waves of sampled protest singing, while layers of mismatched rhythm tracks collide against each other, eventually changing the pace of the entire song. The entire CD is recorded beautifully, with stark piano sequences set against liquid-sounding effects and violin music, shimmering vocals that fade in and out of the forefront-God know what they're singing about, as the music's way too wonderfully distracting to actually sit and try to contemplate lyrics.
~ Holly Day, Music Dish
Whenever I see that envelope arrive in my box with the RoadCone return stamp I get all gleeful wondering what treats await inside.
This week's present is a full-length follow up to this year's half-length CD from the same band. Rollerball is a collective of four musicians around the Northwestern USA who use more organic than electronic instruments in the execution of their beautiful and harsh mishmosh wall of sound. Influences can be heard from free form jazz, pretty pop and industrial noise genres but the disc can't be pigeonholed to any of those genres itself. It's organized chaos, maximalistic, almost structured free-form, full of contradictions, captivating melodies and loops with a colorful array of instrumentation and sound effects thrown in. Piano melodies and beat gems are both hauntingly delicate while screetching and uneasy in parts. Beat-less and beat-heavy instrumental and vocal tunes litter this fine 42 1/2 minute CD. Not for one moment do you have time to lose interest. My only complaint is the flimsy package!
~ Jon Whitney, Brainwashed