“We had an idea of how we wanted it to sound,” says Cliff Worsham, half of local electronic project RBTS WIN. He’s talking about the band’s new album, Palm Sunday, which just released this week (though it’s been in process for most of a year).
The collection of songs was envisioned by Worsham and collaborator Javier Bolea as bright.
And reminiscent of an Italian film score from the ‘60s.
And as Worsham’s vocal version of soul.
"Mountain Child" is a pulsing nocturne, its wilderness barely contained between earthy bass and spacey flourishes. Instrumental “Tidal Prism” is a brief but intoxicating aerial show, all cirrus clouds and jet stream drift. "When I Think of You" pairs strong grooves and tender sentiment with muscular beats and sophisticated sheen. “Stay Wavy” is a sort of tribute to the band’s creative process: a constant immersion in inspiration and potency, a sort of musical telepathy with the universe.
“The way the sound hits anybody’s ears, person to person, is going to be different,” says the vocalist. He interprets soul music as shaking voices, distressed guitars and horns. But that’s not necessarily the formula for RBTS WIN, whose onstage setup includes keyboards, synthesizers, beat machines and pedals. Sometimes they perform as a duo, sometimes they add a third musician — Jim DeBardi was a full-time member for a while. (Bolea points out that the RBTS WIN team includes their graphic designer, engineer, photographer, remix artists, and Dave Cooley who created a custom effects pedal for the band.)
In lieu of a guitar-bass-drums configuration, past RBTS WIN albums used samples to build songs. With Palm Sunday, “We used the samples as an undertone to synthesis, guitar and vocals,” says Worsham.
“There are some samples on there, but some are reversed or obscure,” says Bolea. The duo pulled sounds from lesser-known albums, grabbing just a few measures here, a horn-hit there.
Joe Grisley of Mic Company added live percussion along with the sampled kick drums and snare. “It sounds very human. It’s not on a grid, like most electronic music,” says Bolea. “You can definitely air drum to it.”
He adds, “Whatever the sound is, even a blip from a Casio, we want it to sound like it’s being played.” The duo approaches samples like actual instrument parts. How would a bassline be played on an actual bass? The release and the fade are taken into consideration. “So you’re listening to a band, but it’s not the sounds you’re used to,” explains Bolea.
Ultimately, “I try to think of what it must sound like for someone who first hears it,” says Worsham of Palm Sunday’s lush emotionalism and sparkling cool. Its chillwave nuances and trip-hop electricity. “Even if they hear it differently, I hope they like it.”
Someone who definitely likes what they hear is Chapel Hill-based Grip Tapes. The indie label approached Worsham and Bolea at last year’s Hopscotch Music Festival about releasing the next RBTS WIN album; an offer the duo has heard before. But this time around, “They were open to our ideas about the record,” says Worsham.
That partnership represents a major change for RBTS WIN: Palm Sunday will be the first album that the band sells. Past releases have been digital-only, and downloadable for free through the duo’s website. But there’s a thoughtful reason behind the decision to charge for this record (besides that the musicians deserve to see some profits for their efforts): The record will be released on vinyl.
“I think [we’re] selling it for a cause, because vinyl is something so substantial,” says Worsham.
“It’s beautiful,” agrees Bolea. “It’s part of the package. Ken Hernandez is our graphic designer. He’s done all of our records and he really went all out.” He describes the album art, a stylized septagram (or seven-pointed star), as a representation of Bolea’s beach background and Worsham’s mountain background intersecting in music.
Palm Sunday also represents a new direction for the band: “It’s our first attempt at a clean sound,” says Worsham. “Everything before, the emphasis was on lo-fi. We wanted it to be dirty and sound like it came from a home studio.” He says it’s both a progression and an immersion in influences (those ‘60s soundtracks).
To accomplish that, they took some files (samples, keys) to Echo Mountain where they worked on vocals and editing with engineer Evan Bradford. “When we did the vocals there, we were using the really good pre-amps and the room,” says Bolea.
Palm Sunday showcases maturity, too, because this record symbolizes the growth of Worsham and Bolea as a band, as friends and as individuals. Their single, “Death Magic,” evidences that depth. The track (which RBTS WIN debuted last October) was originally a throwaway in Bolea’s mind, but when he hit play on some of the initial loops, Worsham immediately started coming up with lyrics.
“I didn’t really think of it as a single. It was just a dope cut to me,” the vocalist explains. “That song is completely about giving up the bad parts and staying true to the parts that will make you better.”
— Alli Marshall can be reached at email@example.com.
who: RBTS WIN album release for Palm Sunday. Marley Carroll and Little Bull Lee also perform.
where: The Mill Room (see sidebar for details)
when: Saturday, July 13 (9 p.m., $5/$7. http://avl.mx/uv)
Party Central: New venue the Mill Room
The Mill Room, which opened about a month ago, is a venue with high aspirations. Or, more to the point, many aspirations. Proprietor Mike Rangel (who also owns Asheville Pizza and Brewing; the Mill Room shares food service with Asheville Pizza’s Coxe Avenue location) says the new event space is available as a rental for weddings and nonprofit fêtes. It will also host music along with a couple of weekly events: A ping-pong tournament on Mondays and an ‘80s night on Thursdays (complete with two projection screens to show MTV videos from that era).
The main focus, says Rangel, is rental space at affordable rates. He was inspired partly by an Asheville Pizza employee who struggled to find a local setting for her wedding dinner that would work within her budget. Rangel is charging $150 per hour, with no added fees for outside catering. “We’re the $3 movie people, not the fancy-schmancy shrimp quiche people,” he says.
So far, the Mill Room has been occupied by a couple of wedding receptions and rehearsal dinners, DJ shows, a South Slope mixer, VIP parties and birthday celebrations. “The ideal thing for us is to have several different events a week,” says Rangel.
Future plans involve a collaboration with The Orange Peel. That venue will book acts that can’t yet fill its 1050 capacity room. The Mill Room holds 325, so it will also accommodate some Orange Peel afterparties and other special events.
The Mill Room is located at 66 Ashland Ave. Info at https://www.facebook.com/TheMillRoom.