New Rome – Nowhere

Posted: 29 July 2016 in Albums
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Room40 – RM487 – 20th May 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Location is a state of mind. The abstraction of the cover art – an image of clouds with the colour balance altered to give it a greenish hue – and a conspicuous absence of any text provides an indication of the contents it houses. In fact, it’s a nice-looking package overall: the back cover contains ink with only the words ‘New Rome’ and the simple but distinctive Room40 logo, both in small type. Embossed, white on white is the album’s title. It’s larger, but still easy to miss in the wrong / right light. And just as the attention to detail is what renders the initial engagement and the tactile experience special, so it is that the tactile elements of the music – the tone and texture and the significance of details all too easy to overlook while observing the bigger picture – make this album what it is.

To give some background: New Rome is the latest project from the Polish composer Tomasz Bednarczyk. He merged in the late 2000s with a succession of albums which proved somewhat groundbreaking, combining pastoral tonality with ‘grainy smears of pulse and rhythm’ and heavily imbued with a personal quality which was melancholic yet lilting in tone. Having explored other avenues with other projects, New Rome marks something of a return to this earlier territory.

The album’s ten tracks are comparatively brief, and in some respects have a certain sketch-like quality. But the fact they are brief and fade out where so many other artists would extend the pieces out for an eternity means that there’s a freshness about Nowhere: with each track presenting a different shade, texture and tone, there is a rare sense of movement about the album. Many of the soft and delicate, nebulous cloud-like drones which drift and turn are what one might call ‘conventional’ within the field of ambient and chillout music, but the undulating, interloping synth motifs and small but twitchy little rhythms give the pieces an underlying energy. ‘Venus’ hums, the note hanging for an age before flickering beats and extraneous sounds, like the wash of waves, disrupt the stillness. And yet, while the notes swell and sink, an air of tranquillity remains. ‘Dive’ is much dense, the deliberate, pulsating beats more pronounced, dominant even, but above all, Nowhere is defined by balance, with no one aspect of the sound taking primacy. And this is ultimately the most important detail of all. The bigger picture only exists because of its symbiotic relationship with the constituent parts, rendering Nowhere a magnificently realised work.




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