De Rosa – ‘Weem’ (Rock Action Records)
There’s never been a more important band to this blog than De Rosa. Here’s why.
Hearing De Rosa for the first time in 2006 was a revelation in itself but, as a by-product, they also provided me with a route into the Scottish indie scene. I’ve discovered so many of my favourite acts over the last few years, either directly or indirectly, through going to see De Rosa live.
So the news in 2012 that they were reforming to record a third album after a hiatus of 3 years was welcome news indeed because De Rosa have always seemed to me to be one of Scotland’s great under appreciated treasures.
It’s actually taken them a further three years to complete and issue ‘Weem’ – but the resulting record is more than worth the wait.
The striking thing for me is just how central melody is to the record. Their melodies have always been key to my love for De Rosa, they’re what made them stand out from the crowd for me in the first place, but on ‘Weem’ they’re absolutely pivotal.
There’s far fewer of the indie rock dynamics of the earlier records to offer an easy way into the record. Instead repeated plays are key to unlocking the record’s imaginative, melodic twists. No song better demonstrates this than the gorgeous ‘Scorr Fank Juniper’ which is as close to alt-folk as De Rosa have ever come.
Both ‘Falling Water’ and ‘Prelude to Entropic Doom’ tread a similar path, perfectly complementing the dignified atmosphere of ‘Weem’ at the same time as showcasing the record’s quieter, acoustic side.
But there’s also an ambitious scope to this record – in places ‘Weem’ undeniably has a big sound. Yet, despite this, the band have showed an admirable sense of restraint in creating an album of understated elegance, sidestepping the danger of overcooking the songs.
Lead track ‘Spectres’ illustrates that best. Haunting and stately, it’s perhaps the LP’s key track – a distinct two hander which builds throughout its near 6 minutes running time before coming full circle for its magnificent final refrains.
‘The Sea Cup,’ (along with ‘Falling Water’ and Prelude …’, one of three re-recorded tracks from 2008’s Appendices project) was a live favourite even before the release of ‘Prevention’, and finally gets the sort of recording it has always deserved. It’s perhaps the closest thing the record has to an obvious single.
Instrumental ‘Fausta’ is the only other track which has appeared before but surely only true Gargleblast trainspotters will know the track from the Gargles Xmas sampler in 2011. Yet it works perfectly as a bridge between the two sides of the record.
In a smart piece of sequencing these previously heard tracks have been placed in the middle of the record neatly avoiding the sense of dislocation that might have been created by hopping between the older and the newer songs.
Having earlier said that the album is largely devoid of rock dynamics, ‘Chip On My Shoulder’ is an obvious exception. It’s quite easy to hear how this could have been charged up into an out and out rock song. But instead ‘Chip’ takes a subtle approach similar to ‘Flight Recorder’ on ‘Prevention’. These songs though don’t just have a recording approach in common but they also share both a lyric and strands of musical DNA.
I could talk more about the rest of the album, perhaps the majestic ‘Devils’ or the exquisite closing track ‘The Mute’, but suffice to say everything I’ve ever known about De Rosa (and Martin John Henry’s previous solo work) suggested that there wasn’t the faintest chance that I wouldn’t end up loving this record. And, of course, I do.
Yet whilst ‘Weem’ may have a significantly different feel to the previous albums, it is still unmistakeably, gloriously, De Rosa.
It’s only early January but ‘Weem’ has already set an impressive, towering benchmark for the rest of 2016.
‘Weem’ is released by Rock Action Records on Friday 22nd January 2016 and will be available on vinyl, CD and download.
MPT and the Cool Cat Club are delighted that De Rosa will be appearing at Beat Generator Live in Dundee in support of the record on Saturday 23rd January. Tickets for the show are available here with more info on the show here.
The band also have dates in January as follows:
Saturday 16th – Glasgow, Hug and Pint (Celtic Connections) Tickets
Saturday 30th – Edinburgh, Summerhall Tickets
Sunday 31st – Aberdeen, Lemon Tree Tickets
Here’s the video for ‘Spectres’: