Local electronic psyche-pop outfit RBTS WIN (Javier Bolea and Cliff Worsham) dropped sun-drenched, beat-heavy album Palm Sunday last summer, to widespread acclaim. In fact, tracks like “Death Magic” and “Mountain Child” provided the perfect soundtrack to warm days and long evenings.
Today, RBTS WIN releases a deluxe edition of that album. It includes extra tracks not on the original version, coupled with an official vinyl release. Learn more about the release here and listen to “Beach Magic” here:
Originally published July 9, 2013:
“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.”