Rosetta – “Quintessential Ephemera”

Rosetta are starting to make me feel old. I used to be open to anything. I used to think I couldn’t be hurt. I used to smile more and buy more milkshakes from sketchy ice cream trucks. I used to love any music I heard as long as it sounded different from anything I’d heard before. That’s probably why I got into Rosetta in the first place. Now I’m just a grouchy, half-senile fossil who wants Rosetta to get off his lawn because Quintessential Ephemera doesn’t sound exactly like Wake/Lift.

Back when I was your age, Rosetta were the band that kept sneakily building layer of sound on layer sound with lots of sneaky sound bricks until they had a sneaky sound wall that you barely even noticed was a wall until it exploded in your face and sent you flying against the very real brick wall behind you that you once thought was so safe. When Rosetta were touring on their 2013 album, The Anaesthete, I got to see them play a record store in Syracuse. They blew out the electricity about five or six times. Every time they tripped the circuit, someone would try plugging in their gear in a different configuration, they’d start the song over again, and then trip the circuit again, in exactly the same spot. Until they turned off the fans and almost all the lights. And then tripped the circuit again, when they got even louder.

Although that remains an element of the music on Quintessential Ephemera, it’s joined by a number of other elements which are sometimes more ethereal, more piano-y, go in more different directions. The rocket ship has smashed its way through the asteroid belt, broken the warp barrier, and is now coasting at comfortably relativistic speeds through a shimmering nebula out of which an occasional tentacled horror pops. So yes, it’s different, but Rosetta are still, now more than ever,  the band who will play at the wedding when Neurosis gets married to NASA.

Back in the day, I used to really like how egalitarian the mixes were. On Wake/Lift, the vocals are mixed so far back that they become just another instrument, in perfect balance with the rest of the ensemble, instead of trying to lead or control it. On Quintessential Ephemera, the vocals are much more audible, and yes, quite often they are clean. But you know what? I’m going to get over it.

Why? Because all my wheezing and coughing and colostomy-bag-clutching really only demonstrate how Quintessential Ephemera is yet another towering achievement in what Rosetta does best: refusing to play by anyone else’s rules.

A lot of the press on Rosetta makes much of their DIY approach. Rosetta aren’t just DIY. Rosetta are Indiesaurus Rex. I’m not sure if there’s anyone else out there who’s gone it this alone for this long and consistently done it this well as Rosetta. Which is why no matter what choices got made about the production or instrumentation on Quintessential Ephemera, I take heart knowing that every one of those choices was made for the sole reason that the band, and only the band, wanted it to sound that way, not because someone told them to do it that way. And that’s also why Rosetta’s music is and will always be metal, even if their next album is a gospel-zydeco crossover.

Everyone, check out Quintessential Ephemera on Bandcamp.

New Yorkers, see Rosetta play St Vitus this Saturday along with So Hideous and Descender.

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