Roll the Dice are systematic composers. Their tracks have measurable, regular rhythms, and build in steady increments. It’s also easy to see their constituent parts, and how each one fits into the whole. On the one hand, this puzzle-like intricacy has long shown the Swedish duo as patient and dedicated songwriters, but it also makes for music that can feel stilted and un-dynamic. Until Silence, their third LP, takes even bolder cues from Malcolm Pardon’s background in film composition than their previous work, but on the whole it’s a predictable collection. Too often you can get a good read on a track in its first few seconds, making moments of genuine surprise a rarity.
Pardon and Peder Mannerfelt enlisted the talents of string arranger Erik Arvender and a 26-piece-ensemble for Until Silence, so the results are appropriately big. Whilst their debut self-titled was compact and exploratory, dealing mainly in electronics, and their second, In Dust, saw a considerable widening of the pair’s musical scope (along with the increased prominence of the piano), Until Silence deals almost exclusively in the grand, sweeping gestures usually destined for films with an excess of sword-fighting. ‘Assembly’, for example, sounds like either a war march or a battle between two string ensembles, rocking back and forth violently. Similarly, ‘Coup De Grace’s five minutes of sound has only one mode– sharp and angry.
It’s a ploy which tires quickly. The cutting strings, the relentless percussion, and the urgency are returned to far too regularly in the album’s first half. These tracks might be important pieces of Roll the Dice’s unfurling ‘historical narrative’, as the press release suggests, but they do little to justify themselves as music made with ears in mind. So intent are they on atmosphere and tension that the earthy, interesting textures and sparse melodies of In Dust have been well and truly sidelined. Case in point ‘Perpetual Motion’ has one of the most promising introductions on the album, its pitchy wail and slow ticking sharpening you to an edge, only for it to descend yet again into one-dimensional melodrama.
It should be said, of course, that there are still some finely crafted tracks lurking in the LP’s second half. ‘Wherever I Go, Darkness Follows’ is a highlight because rather than imposing itself, it retreats behind a veil of subtle industrial noise and what sounds like the clicking of an old film projector. It feels mysterious in a way totally unlike the rest of the LP. On album opener ‘Blood In Blood Out’ the piano is played with single-minded intent, notes left hanging in the air - it's deliciously anticlimactic. And ‘In Deference’ closes the LP with a mechanical thrumming jostling up against its spacious piano line, their layers of noise fading in and out of sync. As singles, these high points would more than stand on their own. On Until Silence, they are moments of reprieve.
5Josh Suntharasivam's Score