Fans who associate Rolo Tomassi with a sense of pure chaos may have to readjust for Astraea.
After the departure of Joe Nicholson and his blurry-fingered guitar-dada, as well as bassist Joseph Thorpe, the band recruited members of Brontide and No Coast to complete their lineup, with the result of a more direct and approachable song writing mode. It is their least weird, least technical record, but should not be regarded as the product of compromise.
The record’s great strength is how well it synthesises the delicate and nasty sides of their aesthetic. Their previous works always emphasised the polarised antagonism between their frenetic hardcore punk physicality and their spaced-out atmospherics – which is fun, especially in their fantastic live shows; but on the record it could at times become something of a cheap trick. Astraea balances rather than clashes, with all use of contrast being for emotional effect rather than to disorientate. While this direction was hinted at on the second half of 2010’s Cosmology, they now seem confident with being almost more post-rock than mathcore.
‘Ex Luna Scienta’ and ‘The Scales Of Balance’ make mashed-out chords seem like innovation, creating choruses with force, while also giving room for Eva Spence’s roars. Elsewhere though, ‘Remancer’ and ‘Echopraxia’ prove they’re as confident with summoning up frenzy as ever. There’s a refined seductive power too, not just in Eva’s more frequent singing rather than screaming, but their more warm, soundscapey production (especially ‘Gloam’ and ‘Empiresk’), right up to the record’s glorious, M83-esque conclusion: ‘Illuminaire’. With a newfound sense of maturity and control, they’ve crafted their finest album yet.
By Stephen Wragg