The first time I properly listened to Reality Rounds, I was out walking on a remote hillside on a very grey muddy day. The muted tones of the landscape pleasantly jarring with the unfurling sonic precision filling my head. I started to draught a review in my head that quickly evolved into simply listings everything the music reminded me of. The list rapidly became unwieldy as more names kept emerging…
The truth is that having now spend several weeks with Reality Rounds, it’s quite possibly one of the most effecting and beautiful pieces of music I’ve heard in a long time. Not surprisingly, one of the first names on my mental list was similarly auto tuned Julia Reidy, her In Real Life being a clear highlight at OBLADADA last year.
Reality Rounds is born out of a deceptively simple concept, a group of four singers, Emma O’Halloran, Annika Socolofsky, Chris Douthitt and the composer Alex Dowling. Each singer has the ability to autotune their voices in real time and are accompanied occasionally with synth smudges by Pascal Le Beof.
What we are quickly and spectacularly launched into is a wonderful sparkling reflecting joyousness. The simplicity of what is happening is married with a sense of thick unbridled creativity. The album opens with Channelling that feels like the elemental forces are gathering in some universal broth. The piece reveals solid chunks of voice like smoothly polished stepping-stones. The autotuning tugging gently as formless words rise. A welcoming to the sonic world the entire album maps out…
As the title track, Realty Rounds follows it’s clear that the voices are indeed sculpting words. A stream of interlocking overlapping phrases that seem to warp between the significant and mundane. In fact, the entire album, captured from a live performance is influenced by the work of social scientist and writer Yuval Noah Harari. His work outlines the idea of Dataism, which cites ‘information flow’ as an emerging ideology or even a new form of religion. Throughout Reality Rounds, these ideas are beautifully made real.
Each of the tracks that follow, all have a strategy between the words meditated on and their delivery and treatment. That Vespers forms a hymn from Instagram filters, or that Gods Rays is built from two voices interlocking via delayed harmonisers is only half the story.
What is ultimately so sumptuously beautiful about letting this 10-track album wash over you is how much actual material grows out of the modern every day. Dowling’s process here would make reading a spreadsheet or financial report equal parts engrossing and celestial, which presents an interesting conclusion.
Auto tune as a tool in more mainstream music, gives artists the capacity to create a seeming perfection. It’s like a photo that’s technically average but with Photoshop, it can become apparently immaculate. With these applications, there is always a danger that the manipulation, becomes sonically or visually apparent, and become over processed. Reality is hard to fake.
Reality Rounds however wholeheartedly delights in the completely artificial. It paints a world that sits immediately parallel to this one – a different turn, a future, a dream or a heaven – all through suggestion and simple means. The fact that the entire performance is a live document only helps load this whole 40-minute album with a synthetic light filled beauty. An incredible opening statement by a hugely exciting new composer.
Reality Rounds is out now, available on CD and digitally here