Ideas of Space

Tess Roby

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Ideas of Space Review

by Fred Thomas

Montreal-based artist Tess Roby expands and personalizes her sound on second album Ideas of Space, moving away from the cloudy indie rock sound of her earlier work for songs that are textural, expansive, and complex. While Roby's 2018 debut, Beacon, wasn't light on synthesizers, the songs stuck largely to familiar-sounding arrangements, with moody guitar figures coasting on pensive, steady drum loops and Roby occasionally bringing in a synth pad or melody to bolster her compositions. Synths and ambient textures are a far more centralized component of Ideas of Space. Opening track "Century" begins with a soft chord progression played on a detuned synth, with swirling arpeggios, synthesized string sounds, and staticky percussion all following as Roby's voice glides in. Waves of synth texture and processed singing open "Path" before a minimal electronic pulse starts to give the song a shape, and interesting programmed rhythms meet up with a swell of bass as the instrumentation crests. Roby's vocals are various shades of moody and restrained, with different tracks calling to mind Chromatics, Beach House, Bat for Lashes, and even a hint of Nico on the slow-motion sadness of "Eyes Like Babylon." The FM synths and deep bass of "Euphoria in August" are joined by what sounds like organic strings, offering an even more intricate arrangement on an album that already sees Roby reaching out in new compositional directions on almost every track. This reach for new creative ground is wide-ranging, coming through as a tapestry of tightly interwoven rhythms, synth lines, and vocal layers on "Up 2 Me," and as a spare, emotionally naked expression of loss and loneliness on "Cloud Cover." Though much of Roby's earlier work was shadowed by the grief she was processing through her songs, Ideas of Space not only grows beyond the emotional containment of her first album but opens multiple doors of style, thought, and possibility on the way.

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