Rodney’s English Disco
7″ vinyl / Digital
Available 25 May 2018
Louder than War’s Ioan Humphreys reviews Rodney Cromwell’s brilliant new EP English Disco.
I’m not a complete stranger to the brilliant wonky electronica that Rodney Cromwell produces as I reviewed his debut album Age of Anxiety here. So you can imagine how excited I was when I heard that on the 25 May 2018, he releases his latest EP Rodney’s English Disco’EP.
This is Cromwell’s first collection of all new material in three years. Previewed by the song Comrades, which also features a 12″ extended dance mix by electronica act Vieon, the new EP will be available on 7″ vinyl, CD and digitally via London-based Happy Robots Records.
EP opener Comrades has a throbbing bassy electronica that leads into a spacious robot voice. Minor key changes on the keyboard create drama and yet more space in this enveloping sound. More robotic voice comes in with the 80s drenched synth to create quite an overwhelmingly joyous poppy sound. Follow up Barbed Wire has an unexpected, but thouroughly welcome throaty Joy Division esque bass with Cromwell’s ‘unaltered’ drawl vocals singing about “holiday’s in caravans in Camber Sands”. It’s a celebratory track that is drenched in effects and euphoric electronica, yet it remains infectiously danceable.
Technocrats is a more balanced and nuanced track that is full of electronica flourishes, combined with Cromwell’s playful computerised voice blurting out the title track. The space that the electronica produces is really stretched and expanded in this track. It’s playful and sweeping again gives the track a euphoric feel. Fourth and final original track, Dreamland has a simplistic, yet gorgeous percussive beat with Cromwell’s laconic drawl over the top. The electronica that combines with the lyrical refrain of “we’ve such a charmed life” is beautiful and has a minimalist bass solo over the top. The last quarter is drenched full of broad beats and instrumentation that completes the track perfectly.
The four remixes of the tracks are as experimental as they are wide ranging. Comrades (Vieon Remix) ramps up the tempo of the original and utilises the robot voice to its advantage. Bringing in more effects, samples and added percussion, the original is turned into a dance floor banger. Barbed Wire (Rémi Parson Remix) takes the original track and reduces it to its most basic parts to produce a gentle and measured version.
Technocrats (Chris Frain Remix) takes the track and adds a bombastic drumbeat and heavy keyboards. Channelling Kraftwerk more than ever, this mix is a joy to listen to and compliments Cromwell’s work perfectly. Finally, Dreamland (Alice Hubble Remix) by Alice Hubble is again a dense and measured reworking of the original track. With the ‘charmed life’ vocal repeated over a throbbing bass, the track soon breaks down to fill the first half of the song with the simplest, yet irresistible chord change for this minimalist masterpiece. This refrain is carried right though to the end. One can’t help thinking that they are in the presence of electronica greatness in the form of Rodney Cromell.
Cromwell’s oeuvre is cemented in its own pre-designed era and it is pretty indefinable. He clearly revels in this ‘sound’ that he has created that is an amalgamation of several decades of music and influences. But what set’s Cromwell apart from similar artists is his ability to take his sound, and mix it with socio-political issues and commentary, whilst somehow keeping it accessible and danceable!
As a music fan and (friendly) critic, it’s always exciting to here new music from certain bands and artists you follow. Rodney Cromwell is one of them. Listen to this now.
Catch Rodney Cromwell on tour in May.
May 10 London – The Islington
May 11 Coventry – The Tin Music & Arts
May 12 Southend – The Railway Hotel