Last year, Australia’s Rohan Newman, working under his Roland Ting alias, released the spacious ‘Salt Water,’ a rhythmically diverse and melodically lush album with a ripe, almost humid feel. Its fullness could was largely where he recorded the album, right next door to his homeland’s lush and green Great Otway National Park. But it also, perhaps, could be explained by the fact that it was a collaborative effort, with instrumentalists and cirrus-cloud vocals adding to the record’s saturated feel. His new follow up, the ‘First Wave’ five-tracker, sees him return to truly solo work — and it shows, as the release feels like a much more focused affair.
Produced hot on the heels of ‘Salt Water,’ ‘First Wave’ ramps ups the energy level a touch, recalling the chimeric-club aura of his self-titled 2014 debut long-player on Internasjonal. At the same time, the EP and more intimate and personal than either of its predecessors. It’s if Newman had some super-secret magic software able to translate his inner musings into musical forms – at least if that software was set to ‘80s electro,’ which is the rhythmic template of choice here.
The EP comes charging out of the gate with ‘Lights on the Headland,’ revolving around a classic electro rhythm, Hi-NRG–style 16th notes and a bit of melodic grandeur. It’s a head-rush of a cut, giving off an uneasy sort of elation. That aura — dance-floor drama mixed with multilayered emotion — runs throughout the release. It’s there in ‘Down The Line,’ with its bubbling 303 and skyscraping synths feeling like a blend of sentimental yearning and ray-of-sunshine joy; it’s there in ‘Orange Circle,’ which sees its acidic funk muted by cossetting timbres; and it’s there in the title cut, an epic stomper that feels like leaving an unnerving dream and waking up to the most gorgeous of days. But the best of the bunch just might be the EP’s final track, ‘Leaving,’ It’s a slo-mo, vibey 303 lullaby that’s feels like a gentle caress, and a fitting closer to a fine release.