This Friday brings the release of the long-awaited album from London-based retrowave guru Rodney Cromwell. Called ‘Memory Box’, the same name as the single he teased at the tail-end of 2021, this is the latest release from the well-stacked roster supported by Happy Robots Records. We are pleased to premiere this stunning body of work, which happens to be his first long-player since 2018 album ‘Rodney’s English Disco’.
We have two things to say about this – it’s about time! And this is wonderful and diverse and can be taken as a lesson (for those taking notes) of how retro analogue instruments and gear can sound absolutely wonderful against the digital backdrop of our current music scene. OK, make that three – the third being that ‘Memory Box’ is an essential addition to the collection of any electro-dance and synthpop / synthwave aficionado. Hands-down, this album numbers among the top releases of 2022 thus far.
In his day to day life, Rodney Cromwell goes by his real-world name – Adam Cresswell,founding member of indie-folktronica band Saloon (who had four entries in John Peel’s Festive 50 & recorded three Peel Sessions) and one half of acclaimed electronic two piece Arthur & Martha, together with Alice Hubble.
Mixed and co-produced by Richard Bennett at Acme Hall Studios (New York) and mastered by Pete Maher (U2, Goldfrapp, Paul Weller, Pixies), the ‘Memory Box’ album’ mixes synthpop, hauntology, dreampop and European coldwave, using analogue synths and drum machines with minimal computer sequencing. Cromwell creates a distinctive and compelling organic, dream-like world, inspired as much by Alice in Wonderland and Franz Kafka as by its sonic influences – artists including Kraftwerk, The Cure, Polyrock and Stereolab.
Opening with two synthpop numbers, the dystopian coldwave of ‘Intercom’ – with its twisted robot voices – promises us “order will be resumed shortly.” Order comes swiftly in the form of ‘Opus Three’, a pounding dance-floor filler, reminiscent of the best of Vince Clarke, encouraging us to dance in the face of catastrophe. That track was also released as a standalone single with the very dark and slick B-side ‘Perception Management’, which you can listen to here as well.
Title-track ‘Memory Box’ is a haunting trip down a psychological rabbit-hole of half-remembered memories and half-formed truths with sweeping synths traversing a sonic landscape, turning the mundane into the sublime. The album’s central songs plunge us deeper into this theme with almost Kafkaesque abandon. ‘Fluctuations’ is a pounding krautrock number about the dangers of TV shopping and ‘Waiting Room’ a love song for exhausted souls. The uplifting glam-stomp of ‘Wristwatch Television’ looks towards the utopian future promised in 1950’s style magazines, but never delivered.
‘Calculations’ a melodica-driven dreampop instrumental, melds Brian Eno with Mogwai, pulling us back towards reality. The album closes with its purest synthpop number, ‘The Winter Palace’, layered with ice-cool ARP synth strings, the thinnest of vintage drums and lush harmonies, as Cromwell sings of a love bound by ‘drudgeries hold’.
His debut ‘Age of Anxiety’ LP (2015) and ‘Rodney’s English Disco’ EP (2018) garnered Rodney Cromwell features in Electronic Sound Magazine, NME, Huffington Post, Record Collector, Paste, BBC6 Music and national RNE3 in Spain, for whom he recorded a live session. The album featured in scores of ‘Best of’ lists, including Electronic Sound and The Electricity Club, who named him ‘Most Promising New Act’. He has played lives shows with acts like Pram, Death & Vanilla, M!R!M, Rowetta and Steve Davis. In 2020, he also performed as part of Damo Suzuki of Can’s backing band.
Earlier, the lead single ‘Memory Box’ was voted by fans into the Dandelion Radio Official Festive 50. Both tracks received press and radio coverage in multiple countries with national radio play in Japan, Finland and Spain, as well as multiple spins on BBC 6 Music.
The ‘Memory Box’ LP is out on March 18 via Happy Robots Records with distribution by Cargo Records. it will be available on yellow vinyl, and can be obtained in stores and digitally on all major platforms, including Spotify, Apple Music and Bandcamp.
Written and recorded by Adam Cresswell
Mixed & co-produced by Richard Bennett at Acme Hall Studios, NYC
Mastered by Pete Maher
Album artwork by Martin J Langthorne
Released via Happy Robots Records
UK LIVE SHOWS
19 March 2022, The Cavandish Arms, London with SPRAY & Circuit 3
25 March, AATMA, Manchester with SPRAY and Factory Acts
3 April, New Cross Inn supporting A Flock of Seagulls