Review Summary: I'd have a lot of pent up energy if I spent the last couple of years on Snow Ghosts material, too.
After busying himself last year with Snow Ghosts and the icy, vocal-lead electronic soundscapes of their first LP, Ross Tones steps back into his Throwing Snow moniker with the kind of feverish energy expected from a man who made his name in the London bass scene but just spent a year ***ing about with music able to be described as "ethereal." His recent signing to Fabric's Houndstooth
imprint and a lovely government grant no doubt did their share of extra encouragement, which is presumably why the recent Pathfinder
EP's title track could be the soundtrack to a bull rhythmically destroying a china shop. In fact, with all the frantic arpeggios, grizzly blasts of bass and sheer energy of the thing the bull wouldn't be necessary.
Throwing Snow's debut LP is a continuation of Pathfinder
's ethos, which is to say a ferocious rewrite of the style showcased on Too Polite
. Any future garage connotations were thrown out long ago and Ross' work on Snow Ghosts seems to have used up all his patience for the sleeker edge of early EPs. Mosaic
can instead be characterised by an obsessive attention to bass: from more familiar sub work showcased in "The Tempest" to heavier, gritty blasts of it to bulk up the foreground. It quite literally growls, and as a result a primal, almost sinister energy lingers at the heart of each track. Ross' fantastic scatter of percussion is to be expected, but here he allows himself to be far more enthusiastic than usual. "Meara" and "All the Lights" certainly echo the Squarepusher end of the DnB spectrum as drums seem eager to push even faster. Elsewhere he's more reserved, but even on the plonkier "Linguis" we still hear a far more creative use of layering than expected.
The prominence of vocals in Mosaic
is new, though not particularly surprising. Snow Ghosts has given him a lot of practice, and it's clear how far Ross has come since his initial collaboration with Py back in 2011. The London songstress makes a return in "As You Fall" and finds her voice tailored to this new style: cut, warped and slowed as contrast to the storm of instrumentation it accompanies in a vague flirtation with the modern iteration of witch-house. When vocalists are given less surgical attention, as they are in "The Tempest" and "The Void," they end up competing for prominence with Ross' complex production. The fact this results in anything but a cacophony is credit to his skills; instead, when he chooses to kick off it's frantic in all the right ways: adding to the general sense of controlled chaos spread throughout Mosaic
Your enjoyment of Mosaic
will likely depend on two things: whether you're comfortable with the idea that busy music can be cathartic and whether your speakers are big enough. There's a moment half way through "Pathfinder," after a pre-historic roar of bass and synthetic strings swallow the introductory arpeggios, where everything gives way for a quick, three-note melody. It's basic, but that's kind of the point: it taps in to the primal part of the brain responsible for making you want to give in and, to borrow a phrase from Green Street
, go ***ing mental. The pure energy of it all lends to an eagerness much more innocent than a club-banger drop. Place your ears on Mosaic
's pulse and it's difficult not to get carried away.
There are times when this becomes quite tricky however, and they generally tend to be the more vocal-oriented tracks. For every effort made by the intense "Meara"'s of Mosaic
, there's a "The Tempest" which feels too smooth and refined, where passion is curbed in favour of a radio-friendly politeness struggling to find a place here. Ultimately, this is little more than a dent in Mosaic
's armour, and for such an ambitious debut it's almost a miracle more wasn't wrong with it. Throwing Snow is simply fortunate the rest of the album lures you into a state where it's difficult to care.