Hate Us And See If We Mind
When we last chewed over a release from Jerome Reuter, we were left rather bewildered and uncertain as to the tack Rome might next adopt. With its stark and bitterly personal tone, Hell Money offered few clues as to where the brightest light to emerge from the neo-folk spectrum in the past decade would guide his songwriting chops. Neatly split into two aesthetics which couldn’t be further apart, Hate Us And See If We Mind offers no clarification regarding the future, even as it reminds me of why my ears prick up whenever there’s word of new Rome material.
The binary nature of Hate Us‘ sound is apparent as soon as its titles are checked or its tracks are loaded onto a media player. Beginning with two lengthy, fractured noise compositions each hovering at twenty minutes and titled as variations on “Colony”, it abruptly switches gears to a pair of more traditional (and brief) songs. The distinctions between the two “Colony” tracks are difficult to suss out. The first starts with crackling noise, the second with subdued, mournful vocal and melodic samples, but each switch from one mode to the other after a couple of minutes, wiping away initial thematic impressions or differences as the two pieces begin to overflow and flit between grinding industrial rumbles and echoing, detuned melodies. We’ve heard fragments of each of these types of sounds on Reuter’s earlier work, but never in such a detached, abstract way, roaming where they might and cycling back and forth with each other.
The brisk guitar strumming and simple drum beat of “Hate Us And See If We Mind” clears whatever head-trip forty minutes of noise loops might have sent the listener on, and reminds them that yes, this is still a Rome EP. Crisp and cold but later allowing lighter piano melodies to shine through, “Hate Us” immediately reminded me of Masse Mensch Material‘s “Das Feuerordal”. “The Fever Tree” is more vulnerable, and shows how adept Reuter has grown at presenting gorgeous folk songs, full stop, free of any “neo” or “martial” prefixes. Hell Money‘s more desperate mood might have masked it, but his vocal control is steadily improving, now allowing for a more textured and present timbre even (perhaps especially) when singing in hushed tones.
Serving up two grinding pieces of purely experimental noise before two quick new classics, right down the pipe, Hate Us brings us no closer to having an easily communicable term or bracket for the current period of Rome’s output than we were when we slung Hell Money on the stereo. And heck, given the title of this EP, maybe that’s the point: Jerome’s just letting the chips fall where they may. That cockiness isn’t unappealing: I’m envisioning a neo-folk remake of “Hate Me Now”, Jerome flossing a platinum acoustic guitar and calling out haters from the Tesco message boards. Both “a welcome return to form” and “a daring deconstruction of boundaries”, Hate Us And See If We Mind almost dares the record reviewer to pull out the oldest cliches if only for the sole purpose of hearing them eaten alive by their counter-theses.