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WPGM Recommends: RICEWINE – Mornings (Album Review)

RICEWINE is preposterously new, even by my standards. Their new record Mornings is an eleven song collection that ranges from superb to worth-skipping. Most of these tracks are snippy little ninety second jobs, though, so either way you won’t be wasting much of your precious time in pursuit of good sounds.

The music is actually a solo endeavour by melbourne-based eighteen year old Talae Rodden. I don’t know if he’s even finished school, let alone if he’s signed, but he’s got piles of songs on Spotify, and even bigger piles of potential.

To give you some hints, RICEWINE straddles a bunch of genres. It’s pretty low-fi indie pop, coupled with hip-hop, brimming with samples and has the occasional rap thrown in for good measure. It’s like if Jamie xx and Flying Lotus had a child and raised it on soul classics.

The kid analogy works here because I can’t really stress enough how work-in-progress this album feels. It’s challenging, so expect polarised responses to songs; it’s a good exercise in open-minded-listening, if such a thing exists.

Mornings was released on the eleventh, and is the topic of discussion today. From the outset, Rodden demonstrates his almost unexpected finesse at integrating samples. The album’s ninety five second intro of far-out riffing to a drum track is embellished with a melee of chatter and muted laughter.

This is followed by a neat Neighbourhood style song, “Classic“, largely consisting of romantic whinging but using cleaner guitars and featuring slightly inconsistent vocal tuning. It’s unclear whether this is deliberate, but if nothing else it enhances the slacker feel to the track.

Real” has one of the most compelling openings I’ve heard recently, but possibly peaks there. The piano loop and voice samples generate a really pleasingly sparse texture, which is then blotted by Rodden’s somewhat juvenile rapping. Perhaps he just needs to continue to hone this skillset, or perhaps this is an activity best left to others.

Listening to the next track, “Dreams/Nightmares“, which features the (still somewhat rough and ready) rapping of Rodden’s friend Brandon Eugene Smith suggests the latter: he just sounds that much cooler. Maybe there’s still hope – if Rodden’s voice dropped an octave he could probably pull it off.

The blissfully seamless segue between the two tracks draws the attention back to where the talents lie. Musically, “Dreams/Nightmares” is very pleasurable: it provides an (aptly) dreamy groove to lie on the sofa to, stoned or otherwise, with a dark underbelly of teen angst and chunky bassline. Lyrically, it feels immature. This is turning into the recurrent – and indeed perhaps the only major – vice.

All the pieces come together on “Solstice“: possibly start the album here for the easy alternative route. It’s a frustratingly short, faux-jazz experience with a cyclical, buzzy vocal motif that shows off the best angles of Rodden’s singing. It’s an undeveloped song – more of an idea than the finished article – but at this stage, a good raw product is worth a whole lot more than a mediocre polished one.

Hi” is terribly Flying Lotus (building a groove that weds the grungy and iridescent) and then transitions to “Huey” before you notice. Again, “Huey” is a glimpse of a song, a fragment, maybe a transition. And these glimpses are the goldmine, showing the glimmers of potential that compensate for the gentle blunders on some of the more developed songs.

The title track “Mornings” is the exception that proves this: it’s four minutes, and sounds mature and organised. Pseudo-island beats intimate heavily at The XX and the bright guitar riff reinforces this. As much as he strives to tackle the rap intersect, musically Rodden will likely always sound more at home in this low-fi indie pop. He does a neat job of it too.

So, it’s brand new, it’s rapidly evolving and it’s predominantly snatches of brilliant samples backed by woozy pianos. It’s authentic, and it’ll only get cooler. Time listening to RICEWINE will be time well spent. Purchase Mornings on Bandcamp here.

Words by Immy Hequet

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