Reflections on a Past Life as Played on a Roland Synthesizer

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The title sounds like something from that weird period in the late '60s and early '70s when curly-haired boffins from Europe with intense expressions sat beside banks of synths for album-cover photos and wrote songs about cosmic love. This doesn't explain the cartoon donkey smoking a cigarette three times its own length on the front cover, though, nor does it really capture the engaging, just wonky enough atmosphere of this merry debut album. Rroland himself does in fact use nothing but the stated instrument of choice throughout the album's 15 songs, all instrumental compositions that more than anything else embrace the possibilities of playing with sound and melody to see what will happen. There's a definite air of prog whimsy throughout, but unlike the grotesque 18-minute-long execrations of Rick Wakeman at his worst, Rroland embraces economy and experimentation in equal measure. The chief charm of Reflections on a Past Life as Played on a Roland Synthesizer is perhaps that it's at once of a piece and varied. The squelching, echoed tones used throughout all clearly come from the same source, but Rroland tries everything from hyperactive, trebly melodies ("Dripping Wet," the appropriately cool but fun "Frozen Fugue," "Shining Chariot") to murky yet in their own way toe-tapping songs ("The Song of the Foot," with plenty of bass burps leading the way, "Guilt"). If there's a beautifully strange comparison point for much of the album, it's to the soundtracks to pseudo-documentary UFO movies of the mid-'70s, all oddball electronic bubbles and head-scratching sonic swoops and swirls. That could be why Reflections on a Past Life is such a fun trip in its own right.

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