Crate-Digging: Roncatto Braathen – Be Quiet Or You Will Explode Into Fires

I have a completely-filled 120 GB iPod classic, the record crate of the digital age, containing my entire music library. I’m listening to each release in alphabetical order by record title – kind of a virtual archaeological dig. These are my findings.

(Lost Children Net Label, 2006)

I don’t know what Roncatto Braathen means. Three pages into a Google search, and all I’m confronted with are torrent sites of the band’s EPs. That’s not helpful when you’re trying to write about someone. It leaves very little room for background exploration, and as we all know, having a nice, detailed band background goes a long way in enhancing the listening experience. Knowledge is power, as they say. So I’m going to pretend that Roncatto Braathen was a dastardly Danish pirate who roamed the North and Baltic seas in search of Norwegian merchant ships to board and plunder. The Scavenger of Scandinavia, as it were.

OK fine. I won’t do that.

No pirates. That would completely send the wrong message. Roncatto Braathen, then, is more accurately two “blokes” from “England” who have a hankering for a little bit of ambified “post rock.” If you’re thinking Hammock or M83’s ambient works, you’re getting there. Stark white winter washes of synthesizer melancholically waft over the listener, such as “Explosions.Fires” which is headphone music at its best. It recalls the quieter emotions of the bombastic post rock bands, who in turn recall the beaten-to-submission hard lives of north-Asian climes or – dare I say – postapocalyptic landscapes rendered in blinding sunlight. It’s pleasant but cold, with a hint of sad resolution and decayed beauty.

Nights in this climate are key too – in fact, you can easily imagine Roncatto Braathen’s music as thematic background music to a reverse-color fire, in the cold, dark woods. Or a reverse-burning, reverse-color fire. That would be cool. Even better – what if the fire was blazing on one of those elementary school filmstrip projectors, up against a pull-down white screen, and sometime during the EP – say during the ambient depths of “When He First Appears, He Is” – the bulb in the projector heats the film so much that it melts and disintegrates as it plays, convexing and distorting the image until it peels back from the glass, a destroyed, hot, gooey mess? Oh yeah, that’s right on. That’s the kind of artistic filmmaking that should be happening in everyone’s head when listening to this record.

The record gradually gets a little more rambunctious, relatively anyway, with a huge emphasis on the “relatively.” Guitar peaks through winter clouds like sunbeams on “May Grace Be With You All,” as Richard Nixon’s archived voice speaks to the nation following the Watergate scandal. It sounds weird, but it works out. Distorted electric piano or synthesizer gives way to delicate piano figures on closer “Oh Captain, My Captain,” and another voice is sampled through much of the song. This voice is in Spanish (or Latin, or something – I don’t know, the cadences all sound the same to someone who’s only had much exposure to German and French!), so I don’t know what he’s saying. The noisier elements creep back in as the song progresses, building great cornerstones of tone before dropping out to reveal more unadorned piano and voice sample at the end.

I’ve slept well to this EP, I must admit, on airplanes. It just tends to work, eases my nerves just enough to allow me to drop off. But you really can’t go wrong if you take an active approach to ingesting Be Quiet Or You Will Explode Into Fires – although with a title like that, Roncatto Braathen may simply be too timid to approach anything louder than a whisper for fear of the consequences. That doesn’t sound like a very tough pirate to me.

Head here to download.

RIYL: Hammock, M83, Stars of the Lid

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