Time peels away into separate strands, which wriggle in separate directions at separate speeds. R.O.C. is often like being intoxicated, but only in particular spots of my brain. Some sounds come to me in immaculate, present tense clarity, while others – like the angelic robots and Lego block sunshine during “Parhelion” – move in drawls and slurs, leaving a cascading trail of history like a gymnast recorded in stuttering motion capture. R.O.C. could have been an irrefutably beautiful collage of memory, dictation and electronica, like a gigantic water fountain of ornamental marble and symmetrical arcing jets. But it’s not. “Bbee ddrruunnkkeenn ccoonnttiinnuuaallyy,” the voice tells me during “A Drunken Bone (Of Chrome)”, spilt from a jaw riddled by glitch and slack, while pizzicato strings nibble away at a fog of electronic radiation. My world melts until I don’t recognise it anymore.
There are more voices. Dictated hypnosis, ethereal vowels, ambling thoughts of children. Meanwhile, synthesisers burst into life like popped bubbles and orchestras groan with obfuscated urgency. Even when I feel most alienated by the sense of disarray, there’s a sense of context and narrative encoded somewhere in the noise – a thick, deliberate intent behind each burst and waltzing juxtaposition. I burrow into the writing contained within the accompanying album booklet, which pits each track amidst snaking paragraphs of poetic reference and compositional notes. I’m not sure that it helps me comprehend R.O.C. with any greater clarity, but it’s sustenance; little hints that keep the search aflame. On “Blowm (For Alan Turing)”, I twist through a vortex of beautiful voices and drumbeats splayed, like a VHS badly tracked, before landing in a shit computer game of bent synths, vacuous drama and waywardly programmed pixels. How far down am I?