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In the press materials for Foot Signal, the new ROM album, the duo claims to have made the music using "mostly broken instruments" played with their feet, which clarifies that neither Crum nor Lange take themselves too seriously. The duo's deep instrumental grooves owe a large debt to techno, but the live beats are attractively stuttery and human-sounding and eschew flat out four-on-the-floor patterns in favor of funky breaks. Lange layers terse patterns played on electric piano, synthesizer, vibraphone and glockenspiel, and guitar licks, all chopped up and rearranged as sonic building blocks. It's hard to miss a strong Tortoise flavor, particularly in Crum's playing—which sometimes seems sampled and looped—but ultimately the sound palette here is more minimal (parts of the album were recorded in town with Jeremy Lemos at the old Semaphore space). I suppose this is dance music, but it's dance music that can also function as listening music. Below you can check out a track with a less-than-appealing title that does little to convey the feel of the piece.
Ombre is a more varied project, not just because Lange and Barwick are joined by a slew of excellent guest musicians—including trumpeter Jacob Wick, saxophonist Matt Bauder, bassist Jason Ajemian, and harpist Shelley Burgon—but because the ten pieces on debut Believe You Me simply cover a much broader stylistic range, from the gorgeously shimmering opener "Noche Brilla Pt. 1," a hydroplaning blend of gentle harp glissandos, tender trumpet lines, and Barwick’s ethereal, reverb-drenched, wordless singing, to the calmly sashaying bossa feel of "Weight Those Words," which doesn’t sound far removed from his Helado Negro output (although Barwick's sweet background vocals give it an extra something). Nearly all of the music achieves a mixture of amniotic and celestial—warm and enveloping, chilly and drifting; neither canceling the other out—and even at its most elusive and meditative, it never feels less than substantial. Below you can watch the video for "Cara Falsa."
photo: Kolero Chavaldana