Tamil Rogeon – Son of Nyx (2021)

Tamil Rogeon - Son of Nyx (2021)
Artist: Tamil Rogeon
Album: Son of Nyx
Label: Soul Bank Music
Year Of Release: 2021
Quality: FLAC (tracks)

Tracklist:
01. House No Wheels
02. Bad Sandals
03. Banished
04. Momus
05. Mount Olympus
06. Horns No Eyes

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Viola players can be a pretty modest bunch, full of self-deprecation and apology for not being violinists. But if sometimes the violin can be a little wearing on the ears as lead instrument, the viola’s lower pitch offers a darker, mellower alternative. And so we come to this new release from globetrotting, Australia-based Tamil Rogeon. Like all the best music, Son of Nyx is hard to categorise, but we could start by describing it as both modal in style and intensely melodic. It shows what can be done with slightly unconventional instrumentation, and I’ve been playing it a lot since it arrived.

Along with Danny Fischer on drums, Javier Fredes on percussion and Sam Anning on double bass, Rogeon plays ARP Odyssey analogue synthesiser as well as viola. The Odyssey was introduced in the early ’70s and “revived” about five years ago by Korg. I don’t know whether Rogeon is playing the new version or the original, but no matter: he, Sam Keevers and Daniel Mougerman all take turns with the Odyssey, and its presence gives this album a warm, washy, nostalgic sound. Keevers and Mougerman also tackle another fascinating ’70s instrument – the Helpinstill upright piano, German-made and housed in a flight case, and presumably intended as an acoustic alternative to the Fender Rhodes “Suitcase” model. The Helpinstill was designed to be taken out on the road but it was so heavy that roadies must have suffered multiple hernias every time they tried to move it.

There’s a Greek mythological theme to Son of Nyx. The title refers to the Greek goddess of the night, and there are more references in the song title Momus – the god of satire, and the eponymous son of Nyx – and Mount Olympus, from which Momus was exiled: hence the tune titled Banished.

House No Wheels is fast and furious with a catchy descending hook and great swooping solos from viola and tumbling runs from the piano, while Bad Sandals (its title surely inspired by Steely Dan’s Bad Sneakers) is a slower piece featuring a pizzicato solo from Rogeon. Banished pitches its tent somewhere between the two, with an endearing viola trill and mid-tempo swagger. There’s a hint of Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage in Momus, launched as it is with those distinctive sus chords on the Helpinstill and Mougerman’s scuttling Odyssey solo. Mount Olympus is a rather more spacious and stately piece, while the longer Horns No Eyes (sorry, you’ll have to look that one up) is a three-part mini-suite. Beginning out of tempo with subdued piano and brooding bass, it’s punctuated by a choir of Kamasi Washingtonian heavenly voices (Allysha Joy, Jace XL and Lady Tiaryn Griggs) which introduce a more rhythmic passage driven along by Fischer and Fredes, during which everyone gets to stretch out a little, and it ends with an enjoyably full-on rock section.

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