- Peder Mannerfelt and Malcolm Pardon aren't lacking ambition. The Swedish duo's new album as Roll The Dice is the third in a series that's chronicled the full sweep of Western civilisation over the last two centuries, from the agrarian existence evoked on their self-titled debut, through the Industrial Revolution on 2011's In Dust, to the late-capitalist society of Until Silence. If that sounds like an epic documentary series, their music is the soundtrack to match, and now more so than ever, with their usual piano and synth set-up augmented by a 26-piece string ensemble. Yet in addition to being a concept album, Until Silence is, in some ways, also a protest record. It might not have any of the folksy ballads of the '60s, but it does articulate a similar anger and despair at the inequalities of a society riven by both internal conflict and foreign wars.
It's also the latest in a number of recent electronic albums that deal with the topic of war, although with the possible exception of "Assembly"'s martial drumming and whirring helicopters, it doesn't address the subject matter as directly as, say, Vatican Shadow's Kneel Before Religious Icons, which focused on the war on terror, or Ben Frost's A U R O R A, recorded in the war-torn Democratic Republic Of Congo. Nor is it as intense as either of those records, although the savage "Perpetual Motion" shows Roll The Dice can bear ferocious teeth when they want to. Instead, the spectre of war is conjured as an encroaching threat on tracks like "Aridity," where the beats sound like distant bombs, and the piano notes feel like glowing embers blowing in the wind. It's equal parts dark and light, these two elements intermingling to create an ambivalent set of emotions, from gnawing fear to brief tranquillity, as unnerving and uncertain as you imagine life in a war zone might be.
This isn't music of stark contrasts—instead, it has the soft, grainy feel of old black and white footage. Despite its contemporary inspiration, the era Until Silence most brings to mind is Europe between the two World Wars, especially the neo-classical grandeur of the strings on "Haunted Piano," which swell around the titular instrument being played with the contemplative aura of Harold Budd. Yet, like that of 1930s Europe, it's an uneasy and transient peace, one which soon disintegrates beneath the zombie march of "In Deference," which feels like the machines of war rising once more from a fitful slumber. Clearly this story isn't over yet.
01. Blood In Blood Out
03. Time And Mercy
04. Coup de Grâce
06. Wherever I Go, Darkness Follows
07. Perpetual Motion
08. Someone’s Land
09. Haunted Piano
10. In Deference