I give all credit to my friend Panagiotis for turning me onto this enthralling Monist album, but it seems to have me under some kind of spell. There’s virtually no information that I can find about the project beyond it being New York-based. That’s not important, though, and if the mystery is intentional then fine, but all I care about is the cathartic nature of New Romans: A History.
Plunderphonic techniques often get my attention, though so many utilizing this approach have gone stale in recent years. Monist’s source material is certainly part of what makes this such an alluring album, but he/she has incredible skill when it comes to choosing where to loop a sample or when to break down the mix. There’s a short section, maybe 10 seconds long, toward the end of “Perspectival” that exemplifies this perfectly. The loping horns and underwater voices suddenly disappear, as if to catch their collective breath, while a stretched-out string sample hangs in the air. On the surface it seems so minor, but timing is important and this moment pushes the piece over the top.
Elsewhere there’s hints of Reich in the effervescent, multi-layered percussive elements. Tracks like “Plastic Arts” and “Deposition” come alive with a chiming metallic backbone keeping the lights bright and focus laser sharp. It’s impossible to ignore. Closing things out, “Spectre,” gives a vague idea of what a collaboration between early-aughts Jeweled Antler and a string quartet might sound like. Monist knows how to end things with a deep breath before letting go.