Try, Try Again
It only makes sense that a band named after a Sun Ra song would be unapproachable at first. Brother duo Ben and Tom Page continue to hone their electro-jazz sound as RocketNumberNine. As their single take collaborative 12″ Roseland / Metropolis showed, the brothers had turned a corner from making trite free-form goop to becoming more focused musicians. A full year later, their full-length LP MeYouWeYou takes even more influences in their already expansive palette and attempts to unify the dissonance. The album opens with an auspicious, percussive ring the likes of an RJD2 single. Similar vibes permeate “Lope” as they do RJD2’s latest and greatest, “Her Majesty’s Socialist Request.”
But where keen producers like RJD2 find comfort in a set vibe, RocketNumberNine appear to loath the thought of too steady a beat, lest its familiarity fall into stagnation. From the whirls and hisses of “Rotunda,” through the practically vertigo-inducing swirls of pitch-warped synth in “Deadly Buzz,” there’s not a single track of the first 2/3 of the record that finds steady footing or cohesion. It’s as if showcasing their technical skills is more important to RocketNumberNine than crafting tight soundscapes to flow with, not against. The occasional brilliant moment flares out as quickly as it appears like a sonic supernova. If you were to compile such occurrences into one standalone track, you’d more than halve the album.
Standout track “Black and Blue” feels the most organic, given its acoustic slant. Latin grooves a la wood-soaked percussion and bass mark its opening minutes, escalating with each electroshocked synth horn wolf tone. However RocketNumberNine came up with that concoction of a groove, it’s a potent mixture begging to be imbibed. Quite possibly the most successful melding of old style and new chaos occurs just after the cacophony of “Lone Raver” fades away. The duo once again try their hands at “Matthew and Toby”, this time using the track to close their record, rather than open it. The previously long-winded 12+ minute track has been gutted and modified brilliantly to eight minutes of precision. Second time must be the charm.