Review Summary: Painstakingly variegated.
Tom Green is one of the most fascinating producers out there. He’s always been a musical wanderer of sorts, and the sheer diversity of his (admittedly limited) output is astonishing. Though he’s a techstep producer by trade, as of late he’s delved into sultry, deep, crystal-clear quasi-liquid DnB (The Rain), twisted downtempo (Childhood Memories) in which he molds and remolds vocals like putty, and brutal made-for-the-dancehall neurofunk-tinged techstep (Tripwire) which accurately reflects upon the sounds of genre titans such as Noisia and Phace. He’s gained praise and a signing to one of this reviewer’s personal favorite labels (Shogun Audio) for his work over a few short years, and his variegated sound has earned him well-deserved fame. What makes Rockwell most interesting, though, apart from his apparent lack of defining characteristics, is how immaculately produced every one of his tunes is. It’s no secret his songs are incredibly intricate and complex - his label likes to brag that he once used over 100 different drum tracks over the course of one 5-minute song - but it’s truly astonishing exactly what this intricacy means when his songs begin to play. Almost like no other DnB producer around nowadays, Rockwell’s songs are all supreme sonic treats both initially and over the course of dozens of listens. They’re catchy and twitchy like all immediately pleasing techstep, sure, but unlike much of their counterparts the songs hold up over many plays and replays.
I’d continue blathering on about who Rockwell is and why his songs are so good, but I feel it would be best both for me and the reader if I held up his Noir
EP as a solid piece of evidence as to his quality rather than make more vague, sweeping statements like the ones above. Because, after all, the EP - both as a whole and through the lens of each individual song - demonstrates to a T exactly why such bold statements about Rockwell continue to hold water. At its most basic level, Noir
fulfills the two basic Rockwell requirements: the EP is very much multifaceted, and each facet of the four-track release is executed with supreme care. You’ve got the title track, of course, with its so-absolutely-Rockwell feel: the drums are absolutely brutal and unsurprisingly the main focus of the track, and everything Green lays on top of those drums serves to distort and disorient any sense of security the listener might have felt. While it is true that Rockwell’s most distinct attempt at a single “style” (namely, the two requirements mentioned above) holds for the length of this EP, though, what really makes the release interesting is exactly how he goes about making each track different. “Tribes” is probably the best example of how Rockwell purveys his production skills: everything within the deep and ominous track is placed and morphed with astonishing care. There are so many subtle treats hidden within the track - to name a few, glassy cymbal crashes, power-saw-esque revvings, and drums which sound like some sort of cold, mechanical tribal glockenspiel. “Tribes” is full of the snippets which make Rockwell so adored, and it’s a great example of what he can do with his drums.
Really, though, “Tribes” is the story of the whole EP: heavy, muted, versatile, and with insanely well-crafted and fascinating drums. Far from the drab homogeneity which plagues DnB today, Rockwell’s music here demonstrate his consummate production skill admirably. Noir is the story of an EP which works in whatever territory it treads, thanks to both confidence in unfamiliar areas and incredible technique and tactics used to make the pieces so interesting and complex. If there was any doubt about exactly why Tom Green is adored and respected so, Noir should answer any questions anyone might have.