Halifax four-piece Casino Rockets deal in an atmospheric sort of post-rock that flits between trippy dreaminess and powerful intensity. Their traditional framework of guitar, bass and drums is augmented by the use of synthesisers. Their genre-fluid sound blends a diverse range of influences, including psychedelia, math rock, electronica and trip-hop.
The current lineup has been together since 2009, having initially started out as a covers band. The original material for their first album has been a long time in development, but their self-released debut Reality Distortion Field is available on vinyl or download from 21st May 2021.
Opener and lead single Impala goes intense early, with a simmering build of electronics and a thudding kick drum before bursting into life with a massive motif of stabbed guitar chords. There’s a clever lyrical conceit, alternating the vision of lion and impala: the eternal struggle between hunter and prey, perhaps hinting at a broader reading of tyranny and the oppressed. The song glides through a varied sonic landscape of dynamic shifts. Bubbling flurries of high octave bass notes usher in a descending pattern of strummed chords, which in turn melts into a stunning swirl of otherworldly phase and wah. This thumping track is an impressive statement piece to open with. By contrast, People Like You seems surprisingly uneventful, save for a random reggae section with chorusy guitar reminiscent of The Police.
The next phase of the album settles into a mode akin to the “shoegazing” bands of the 1990s, though I’m most strongly reminded of Ride’s more recent work, such as “Weather Diaries”. Only Light Can Save You has a soaringly expansive lead line over busily bouncing bass and tumbling drum fills, its lush texture emphasised by a sparse verse. The instrumental breakdown has an ace up its sleeve, with a gloriously retro vocoder section that could almost be an outtake from “Frampton Comes Alive”.
Simpatico Thieves maintains the dreamy mood with a jangling guitar line and sustained synth. The tone package includes some classic 1970s keyboard sounds, with hints of Fender Rhodes and squelchy Moog as the song progresses. The vocal is superbly adroit, long notes melding with the electronic swooshes, and the drumming is restrained yet rhythmically interesting. Fonzarelli is an even more languid piece to drift away to, with haunting keys and guitars shimmering in gentle delay, while The Maker floats in big washes of oscillating synth.
Black & Red is my personal favourite from this collection and marks a change in tone as the album progresses. It opens with a big cinematic soundscape of reverberating guitar, evocative of The Doors or Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, that builds ominously through the verses. A flurry of drum fills breaks the reverie, and in a startlingly dramatic shift, we’re suddenly off on a ‘baggy’ shuffle beat in the manner of The Charlatans or The Stone Roses. The guitar gets busy, and there’s a long, evocative sample of T S Eliot reading his 1920 poem “Gerontion”, which is chillingly vibey and hyper-cool.
The current single Drive Me To The Dusk is propelled along by an urgently insistent bass figure. A processed ‘old radio’ vocal with a cooly disdainful delivery, coupled with a swirling vortex of electronic lead, gives a post-punk feel that builds steadily before culminating in a manic crescendo. Feel Me Now maintains the intensity. There’s a hint of Red Hot Chilli Peppers in its passionate vocal over a funky drum beat, plus a gorgeous linking figure of lolloping bass and twanging guitar.
Concluding number Kachumber returns us to the more mediative and dream-like facets of the band, with many subtle flourishes gradually combining into a vast, expansive and emotive audio canvas. It’s a fine piece of work and a satisfying conclusion to an interestingly textured album.
The strength of Casino Rockets is that they use the many and varied sonic possibilities of electronics to create mood and depth whilst retaining the earthy passion and warmth of good old fashioned bass, drums and guitar. This album feels like a journey, and it would be worth investing in a vinyl copy to appreciate it in its entirety. The mesmeric expansiveness would make for a good listen on headphones, too, especially out and about in the wide-open spaces, under a big sky.
Tiv Whitaker – vocals and synths
Rick Anderson – guitars and vocals
Dan Lea – bass, synths and vocals
Chris – drums
Reality Distortion Field tracklist:
A2 People Like You
A3 Only Light Can Save You
A4 Simpatico Thieves
B1 The Maker
B2 Black & Red
B3 Drive Me To The Dusk
B4 Feel Me Now