I was no Oliver Twist when I found an instant appeal to Rumour Cubes‘ music on first hearing them last year. Happily it’s been only a few short months to wait to hear their first full length album and, in late February, everyone gets their turn.
What stands out for me most about ‘The Narrow State’ is the variety and extent of emotion the band conveys, thanks largely to their use of strings. Although it’s hard to think of an instrument that can be as utterly and beautifully depressing as the cello, the violin and viola (there’s one of each in six-piece Rumour Cubes) come close behind, but with greater capacity to be any other human emotion required.
It’s not just the fact that Rumour Cubes use strings, or what the strings play, it’s how their lines in the score interact with the other instruments and each other that gives such depth to the six songs on this record.
In opener ‘The University is a Factory’, the strings create a magnificent tension, carried through much of the song but making the most subtle changes here and there. They create a wave, and you become a cork on that wave. You are afraid and for good reason, because guitar and percussion are predators lurking below. You drift helplessly over a shiver of sharks – they soon vanish but any relief is short. Now more ferocious activity develops, a feeding frenzy as the music nudges and chomps at you, the water churning. You are pulled momentarily under the waves before the strings carry you slowly away from the drama below. They have saved you, for now, but you don’t forget that they took you there in the first place.
The start of ‘The Gove Curve’ has such a sad, despairing feel to it. But as guitar, violin and viola join hands together the despair becomes anger. The time for sitting is over and the revolution begins. “Gather your weapons, grab what’s at hand, there’s an uprising and we’re all gathering”, the music seems to cry. Then, when everyone is gathered we hear the clear and articulate reading of a poem by Steve Willey. As the words end, the crowd stands there in sad and silent reflection. There will be no revolution today. It’s a non-Hollywood ending and I like it.
‘At Sea’ is a peaceful and meandering song. It follows on perfectly and is the sort of track you would not normally find at first drop, yet it is right where it belongs.
In ‘Rain on Titan’, strings provide the peaceful constant as all around chaos develops. It’s like a film using the most beautiful classical music over scenes of great violence. Like a brilliant mash up. Quite an experience.
‘Triptych’ has an altogether different structure from the other songs. As the name describes, it’s a track in three distinct parts that complement each other. It starts off in an explosion of fierce bowing, strumming and electronics (this must be amazing live in one of those cosy London venues I keep reading about). The adagio on the centre panel sets us up for a finale that exudes confidence, triumph, self-satisfaction. If any emotion was missed in the last four songs, then they can be found in here. ‘Tempus Fugit’ is the wonderful, gentle lullaby that takes us out.
What Rumour Cubes do so well in their compositions is for the strings to be the prominent instruments and build the other sounds around them as support. It’s a mature and successful approach that ensures a full sound that is consistent enough to make the deviations from this consistency so effective in their story-telling.
It’s not a long record by instrumental standards, but it works so well, with enormous variety and no flat spots. The songs on their debut EP have been re-recorded, not just remixed (from what I can tell), and included in the album. ‘The Gove Curve’ has been available for streaming for a couple of months, so for many there are just two wholly new tracks. For those new to the band this is not an issue at all, nor does it detract from how brilliant the record is. It certainly didn’t stop me pre-ordering my own physical copy, but a bigger fix would have been nice.
There are some moments in a couple of songs that could be further developed, and I’d like to hear some of the other instruments given a greater opportunity to shine.
That said, this is an excellent record, with a level of emotional detail that reminds me of Laura’s ‘Twelve Hundred Times’ and the kind of instinct for rock with strings found in 3epkano’s work. And all this from a band that has really only just hatched from its egg and taken a few small flights. I can’t wait till it learns how to soar.
Please Sir, can I have more?
Available to pre-order now on Bandcamp
Posted by Gilbert Potts