A DJ appreciative of the long play format, Johannes Auvinen aka Tin Man, recently suggested that the album ‘allows for more cohesive artistic statements than other formats’, enabling the delivery of a ‘filled-out narrative.’ This outlook feels essential to the conception of Valere Aude, the debut LP of Auvinen’s collaborative project with Gunnar Haslam as acid-techno outfit Romans. Titling each track as a different geographic area in ancient Roman civilisation, Auvinen and Haslam carve out their sonic journey, outlining the spatial and temporal landscape at the album’s centre.
Yet whilst a record of great narrative depth, Valere Aude’s progression is far from linear. Instead, Roman’s soundscapes unfold in waves and swirls, ebb and flowing between lashes of driving techno and moments of haunting ambience. In these latter instances, Romans’ style is both contemplative and experimental. Through the eerie synth echoes and surging distortions of Cyrene, Romans delve into history’s abyss, delicately tracing the remnants of an ancient past. A similar feeling is evoked in Locria, with descending chimes and intricate 303 inflections fusing in a moment of atmospheric acid escapism.
Contrasting in tone but equally as hypnotic are Valere Aude’s heavier club sounds. Tracks like Aquilla and Legia deviate slightly from Romans’ nostalgic musings, with their pulsating techno grooves and sinister acid stabs better suited to the confines of any dark basement dancefloor. Concluding the album’s narrative with two gorgeously expansive eight minute tracks, it is in Valere Aude’s final chapter where Auvinen and Haslam really shine. Layers of analogue modulations and shimmering synths mutate into a much darker pulse in the mesmerising Sabratha, whilst Oeviodunum’s piano chords offer a warmer shade to compliment the duo’s often ethereal distant sound. The real beauty of both of these tracks derives from their blending of these two components, with Romans’ dreamy wanderings etched on to deeper techno undercurrents.
Creating a record of wide-reaching sounds and ideas, Romans certainly take full advantage of the LP structure to fulfil Auvinen’s notion of an extended and cohesive collection of compositions. And with its ambitious framework and multitude of layers and textures, this is a resounding achievement. Sprawling and transcendent at times, introspective and intimate at others, Valere Aude skilfully unites the old with the new, constructing an ode to both forgotten memories of the past and dancefloors of the present. It’s electronic music at its most immersive, and its most thoughtful.
Words: Georgia Tobin