Rodney Cromwell – Age of Anxiety LP
Louder than War’s Ioan Humphreys listen’s to some more lovely minimalist electronica from Rodney Cromwell.
A month or so ago I had the pleasure of reviewing the Fax Message Breakup EP by Rodney Cromwell here. Featuring exclusive remixes by Hologram Teen, Chris Frain and The Leaf Library, the EP was a follow up to his critically acclaimed Age of Anxiety LP that completely passed me by! So therefore, filed under ‘One that you might have missed!’, here is Age of Anxiety.
Released on the 6th November 2015, his debut LP ‘Age of Anxiety’ on Happy Robots Records introduced us to the wonderful world of Rodney Cromwell aka solo artist Adam Cresswell. Strongly influenced by artists such as OMD, New Order, and Kraftwerk, his music equally embraces synthpop and indiepop. Made almost entirely on vintage gear, ‘Age of Anxiety’ is an album that evokes the synthpop sound of the 70’s and 80’s while still being forward looking and sounding fresh. Krautrock rhythms combine with melodic bass lines, the chimes of toy instruments, the bleeps of antique moogs, ARPs and vintage synths and the melodica.
Opening track ‘Internationalle’ is a few seconds long and features a few bars on a toy piano. I love this guy already… this leads on to ‘Cassiopeia’ which is a beautifully chilled out beat with and equally chilled put melody. Such a great opener. The layers of keyboards, bass and melodica are gorgeous.
The fantastically named ‘Barry was an arms dealer’ is a real old fashioned throb to it that immediately conjures up John Carpenter’s scores. With the computerised, Kraftwerk esque singing, the track has a surprisingly real warm feel to it that just carries on throughout the LP. ‘You will struggle’ with the wonderful duet with singer Alice Hubley (Arthur & Martha, Cosines) has a real spasmodic electronic feel to it that once again reminds one of OMD and undoubtedly The Human League. A deceptively antagonistic track. Are they getting on? Is this a break up song? Its captivating and intriguing. Just like a good love song should be!
More minimalist beats and keyboards wash over ‘One Two Seven’ with its euphoric synths. Such a simple yet effectively rhythmic track that summons up all the best 80s memories and leaves Spandau Ballet where they belong…
Fax Message Breakup has a really fresh sounding beat that immediately gets the electronic ‘Kraftwerkseque’ voice treatment of “i can’t do this anymore”. On top of the is sound you get the ‘Bontempi’ toy organ accompaniment that, mixed with a ‘proper’ keyboard chorus on top, takes you into 80s New Order territory, especially with the bass solo and the keyboard flourishes. It’s brilliant stuff, yet there is something inherently dark about the lyrics and the delivery. Clever stuff.
The instrumental ‘Baby Robot’ takes you on a gentle journey through a computer’s innards, by passing motherboards, breadboards, wires, diodes, switches and drives. Nice.
‘The Blue Cloud’ is another euphoric, yet chaotic (in a nice way) track with Cromwell’s phoned in computerised vocals over an optimistic keyboard throb that ebbs and flows and whisks you away to somewhere better than this…
‘Fenchurch Street’ uses samples really well and has the drawling vocals of Cromwell proclaiming “I fell in love with an Essex girl, let me into your Essex world”. Another romantic track? Or a tongue lodged firmly in a cheek? You never know with Cromwell. And that is what is so great about him and his music.
Final track has a really nice New Order feel to it complete with a Hooky esque bass line. Again, the track soars and takes you places that you weren’t expecting to go to.
When i reviewed Cromwell’s last EP i ended the review with the pithy line “Looking forward to hearing more Rodney Cromwell” Well, i finally have, and i have to be honest, i love his work the more i hear it. This LP is full of nods to 80s acts such as Kraftwerk, OMD and The Human league, but he is able to take these influences, and via osmosis and 21st century fatigue, craft his own take on electronic and electronica music to take us into an increasingly uncertain future. His music has optimism and i like that. Send more Rodney Cromwell to my nuclear bunker please…….