By Chris Powers
London’s Rocketnumbernine has strung together an impressive resume since releasing its debut You Reflect Me in 2009. The band, composed of brothers Ben and Tom Page, performed alongside fellow British electronic dignitary Four Tet in an opening slot for Radiohead during an exclusive stint at New York’s Roseland Ballroom in late 2011. The trio reconnected earlier this year on the collaborative 12-inch single Roseland/Metropolis, which melds the brothers’ percussive meandering with Four Tet’s murky drones.
But if the Page brothers sought to make a statement with MeYouWeYou, their sophomore release, it’s this: they refuse to skate by on star-studded partnerships and industry connections. At the heart of Rocketnumbernine’s free jazz-leaning electronica is a wild, improvisational spirit, bound by opaque grooves delivered with robotic precision. On MeYouWeYou, this spirit exudes confidence as it flutters through frenzied electronics, astral jazz runs and sludgy bass lines.
Rocketnumbernine records live using analog synthesizers, techniques that both denote and require a sense of poise and restraint. Though the duo is patient with their tunes, they also know when to charge forward into feverish derangement. Take the rather sudden conclusion to “Lone Raver” for example. Frantic synth leads battle it out, climbing on top of each other over and over until a rhythmic shift ushers in the song’s abrupt end. Although the brothers are able to up the intensity to a near psychedelic level, their sound is still anchored by their shared command over the concise drum and bass groove. You’d be hard pressed to find a tighter, more in sync electronic act operating today, perhaps due to the fact that Rocketnumbernine’s members share blood.
The Page brothers’ penchant for layering is also evident on MeYouWeYou. On “Black and Blue,” the duo builds on a brooding backbeat with decaying synth runs, fluctuating in intensity over the course of six minutes. “Rotunda” leads with an afro-beat groove which eventually gives way to melodic percussion that mirrors the track’s aggressive keys.
Though Rocketnumbernine can successfully lay down a strong foundation for their winding electronic exploits, the duo is not afraid to veer of the path to embellish their exploratory dance grooves. MeYouWeYou appears to be Rocketnumbernine’s coming-out party. Like the great jazz auteurs that undoubtedly influenced Rocketnumbernine’s sprawling electronica, the Page brothers have found their signature sound and the self-reliance to both pursue it as well as deviate from it in any way they see fit.