Romans Valere Aude
Gunnar Haslam and Tin Man present a highly absorbing debut LP.
By now, you pretty much know what you are going to get from the music of Gunnar Haslam and Tin Man. The former has fomented a chilly and slithering techno style on labels like L.I.E.S and Argot, while the latter is all about coaxing as much life as he can out of his beloved 303. What’s more, both have an atmospheric and elegantly mournful style, so when they collaborate as Romans, the results are effortlessly seamless.
At the same time, it’s fair to say there are no real surprises on Valere Aude, the pair’s debut album for Bunker New York. The whole thing follows a classic long-player arc and includes a requisite ambient reset along the way, but that’s not to say it isn’t enjoyable: so complementary and perfected are their styles that the whole thing plays out like a meditation, sending you forever deeper into their greyscale soundworld.
Cerebral throughout, the album rolls through slow and pillowy stuff, churning groove undulations and on-your-toes-techno. The mood is often sombre and serene, far-gazing yet insular. Though not explicitly linked in any specific way to “examining ancient Roman civilization” as per the backstory, there is an unmistakable sense of classicism to the release. It feels shrouded in mystery and comes over like a rueful and romanticized muse on some forgotten time.
This is particularly true of the distant decaying melodies and haunting pads of “Locria.” Or on “Cyrene,” the ambitious nine-minute ambient track centred around muted synth modulations that are all bleary-eyed and hopeless. That is the centerpiece of the album, with things building to a peak before then and hitting rather harder after. Throughout “Legia,” it’s hard not to imagine frosty autumnal landscapes, rolling mists and silvery grey clouds. On “Zarai” we’re treated to about as hypnotic an acid line as you will ever hear, while in other places the 303 gets skewed, stretched and smoothed out in mind melting ways.
From track to track, the focus ranges from meandering lead lines to clacking percussion, pulsing bass to more manic and paranoid stabs, and those subtle shifts keep things vital. This might not be an album that breaks much new ground, then, but what it does do, it does so expertly that you cannot help but be absorbed.
01. Cirta (6:23)
￼03. Via Agrippa
￼08. Dura Agameia
Valere Aude is expected to drop in early December.