RocketNumberNine make jazz-inflected space rock, and have been associated with several big names already in their short career, most notably Four Tet who has produced for them and collaborated with them, but also with legendary jazz drummer Steve Reid. This means that thus far they’ve mostly been in the shadows of the more well known act, but now it’s time for the brothers Tom and Ben Page, who comprise RocketNumberNine, to finally stand up and show their own worth with their debut album MeYouWeYou.
They’ve opted to self-produce the album, which shows a certain level of intent, especially when you consider that the closing track is “Matthew and Toby,” which was already released as a single produced by Four Tet, but re-recorded to a shorter version here. Comparing the album version with the previous single version gives you an idea of what RocketNumberNine intend with MeYouWeYou; whereas the single version was quite floaty and ethereal, the new version of “Matthew and Toby” sounds more muscular and dynamic. Throughout the album all of the songs have a lot of presence, with the synth sounds going deep and dominating the proceedings. This gives certain songs like opening track “Lope,” mid-album tentpole “Symposium” and the zap-heavy cruiser “Black and Blue” the sound and presence of a large battle cruiser floating domineeringly through space. The intergalactic feel of the album is common on many tracks, as the band name would indicate.
The name RocketNumberNine is actually taken from a song by Sun Ra; and it’s on the tracks where they show more Sun Ra-like tribal and jazzy traits that the album is at its most exciting. These are the songs where it’s the drums rather than the synths that steal the show. The most notable example of this is lead single “Rotunda,” which, as its title suggests, has a circular hypnotic rhythm that sucks you in while tiny inflections of bells and synths tease their way around the beat. This track could easily fit into a dance mix, though trying to keep up with the tricky rhythm would be difficult – though vastly entertaining. “Deadly Buzz” combines polyrhythms with deep and powerful surges of noise that produces a deadly result – just as its title suggests.
Next to these highlights there are a couple of tracks that are a bit flatter and seem to have less character. This is not surprising on a debut album of live instrumental music, and RocketNumberNine should be commended for the killer tracks that they’ve managed to pack into MeYouWeYou. At only 9 tracks it’s certainly an easy listen and gives us plenty of reason as to why the big names mentioned at the top have wanted to work with them. And they may now find that they have some more potential collaborators giving them a call after this.
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