by Ruth Booth
Rosetta have always trodden a fine line between contrasts. The Anaesthete means one without sensitivity to beauty. Yet the song titles are lifted from the book Sword and Brush by David Lowry, a book about the parallel masteries of calligraphy and martial arts. Those vibrant experimental tendencies – ones that saw their debut The Galilean Satellites released as a tandem-play double-album – are tempered by both a distaste for noodling and for outstaying their welcome.
Opener ‘Ryu/Tradition’ threads squalls of post-metal noise and measured moments of contemplation – think Isis meets Red Sparowes, balanced. The Anaesthete bears the hallmark of that guided ebb and flow Rosetta mastered on 2010’s A Determinism of Morality, where atmospherics drift but never too far under their nigh-invisible control. Refinement and persistence reign.
There are some crushingly beautiful moments on here. While the most obvious is the subtle drift of ‘Hodoku/Compassion’ (with guest vocals by City Of Ships‘ Eric Jernigan), also worth mentioning is the wonder and terrible awe of ‘Ku/Emptiness’, a meditation on form and potential, and a sonic cipher for a word depicted in Japanese calligraphy by the breaking open of a roof.
The extent to which it’s necessary to read Lowry’s book beforehand is debatable. At heart, the album is built around what the band refer to as a “hurricane” structure, centred around the eye of ‘Hodoku/Compassion’. Like the Fibonnacci sequence tracklist of Tool’s Lateralus, it’s an interesting idea if you can stick with it, but not one for a quick-fix emotional high. Following so soon after ‘Oku/The Secrets’, the impact of ‘Myo/The Miraculous’ is lessened, despite the gorgeous guitar ripples of ‘Hodoku/Compassion’ separating the two.
While the album undoubtedly has vicious payoffs, drifting highs and crunching lows, it revolves around this unresolved tension. With the album bookended by the restrained relentless majesty of ‘Ryu/Tradtion’ and the siren slow terror of ‘Shugyo/Austerity’, there’s no sense of triumphal beginning or ending to tie together and taint your memory, but a sense of something lingering, unfinished.
And there’s the rub. If by some quirk of fate Rosetta broke up tomorrow, and while The Anaesthete is undoubtedly the very pinnacle of their career so far, we’d have no scenery-dwarfing, triumphal peak to celebrate them by. Simply a superbly crafted work, a vantage from a mountain climbed on some journey onward – The Anaesthete is beautiful, but ultimately unsatisfying, leaving you wondering what’s beyond that horizon. Then, from the sounds of things, perhaps that was the point.
Standout Tracks: Shugyo/Austerity, Ku/Emptiness, Fudo/The Immovable Entity
Sounds Like: A tightrope through a hurricane