Rolo Tomassi - Where Myth Becomes Memory (Cover Artwork)

Rolo Tomassi

Where Myth Becomes Memory (2022)


Rolo Tomassi have been one of the most interesting bands in the UK for a long time now. Interesting does not always result in a sound that endures, but that’s not been a huge concern for Rolo Tomassi. Because they neither concern themselves especially with the zeitgeist, nor do they stay in the same place sonically for very long. As such, plotting their musical and career trajectory is a fascinating and often surprising process. They played Download festival before releasing their first record, they opened for Jane’s Addiction in support of the first record’s release, their second record was produced by Diplo, they then toured with The Dillinger Escape Plan, set up their own label, switched a number of band members…and this is all in the early stages of their career. Now, 17 years since the band’s formation, they have retained that enigmatic aspect, but more impressive still is their ever-present ability to stretch and manipulate their core sound to create something tangibly different with each release, whilst never abandoning whatever the thing is that makes them Rolo Tomassi.

It’s kind of mad that I have to spend a whole paragraph talking about the nature of this band because they should by all rights be welcomed with a tickertape parade each time they arrive in a new town. But there is no doubt in my mind that the band would hate that, so maybe it’s for the best. To the record, then. Where Myth Becomes Mystery follows 4 years after what may have been RT’s critical apex to date in Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It. There are a lot of eyes on this release, it’s fair to say. Mine, for a start. So anticipation gripped me as I pressed play. “Almost Always” opens the album with twinkling noises and scathing guitar textures slowly revealing themselves, before Eva’s vocal cuts through it all; the chord progression in the wash of distorted guitars becomes more apparent and then things dial back until you’re left with the twinkling noises and a spartan piano lament. Then you realise you’re not yet halfway through the song. I honestly don’t want to ruin the twists and turns that Rolo Tomassi take you through in this, the first song on the record(!), but it’s a 6 and a half minute epic that somehow still feels wholly suitable for welcoming you into their world again.

Don’t get too comfortable though, because the majestic and fragile compositions of the opening track are juxtaposed immediately in “Cloaked” where Chris Cayford’s guitar work really shows its teeth for the first time. Mathy, but with heft and even groove. You’re also treated to the confluence of keys, guitars, and both clean and harsh vocals for the first time in the record and it is hard not to be taken aback again when you recognise the flair Rolo have for blending seemingly disparate sounds to create something hypnotically beautiful, or subtly disquieting as they see fit. It’s something the band apparently have complete control of and in some cases, it feels almost as if they do it organically, so natural and cohesive is the songwriting here. Even when, in “Mutual Ruin”, the song recedes to little more than piano and the muffled sound of its pedals, as gorgeous and involving as it is, you’re never quite comfortable because you’re simply not sure if something is just hiding around the corner to slap your lips off.

“Drip” into “Prescience” probably marks the high-water mark for heavy in WMBM, but even within these at-times savage compositions, there are gentle piano and guitar-led musical digressions. Actually, diversions is probably more accurate. Because they’re 100% a part of the journey of the songs, and by extension, the record. It’s just that with their use of space and unusual, occasionally discordant musical tapestries, they still maintain a level of intensity, albeit one that is swimming just under the surface, sometimes for minutes at a time. “Stumbling” does very much this, but as an entire song. The neo-classical and darkly evocative piano work from James is nothing short of magnificent. And matched by his sibling’s vocal. It’s moments like this where it makes complete sense that the two have worked together on musical projects since their early teenage years.

All of this could make the record sound scattershot, or pretentious even. But neither of those things could be further from the truth. Of course there is extraordinary musical nous and talent involved in making music this complex and affecting, but Rolo Tomassi, at this stage of their illustrious career, are masters at wielding that ability in such a fashion, that their music feels warm and welcoming. It’s still very challenging, but I can almost feel their collective hands on my shoulder as I forge my way through the record’s movements. Through love, loss, anger and salvation. I know that sounds very dramatic, but that’s how it can feel listening to this record. Especially when listening to recent single “Closer” or reach the record’s final stages. “The End Of Eternity” is simply one of the best album closers I’ve ever heard. There is also a very clever piece of sonic bookending which you might not hear the first time around. But if you finish the record and immediately hit play again (and you will want to), then it becomes clear. To the very end, this record just gives and gives. When I step back and consider the scale and scope of what Rolo Tomassi have made here, but how much it rewards the listener as well, I feel genuinely grateful for what they’ve created.