Autobiography combines with ambiguity to create a great second time out.
Angelica Rockne’s ‘The Rose Society’ is a solid sophomore effort from a rising California star. A combination of sounds and vaguely psychedelic aura give it a definite northern California vibe, which is not all that surprising as Rockne lives close to Santa Cruz. The self-produced album was recorded in Nevada City, California. Rockne developed the string sections at Hyde Street Studios in San Francisco. In many ways the album reflects the territory from which it comes. This is northern California, home of the counter-culture, New Age, beat poets, and epicentre of the so-called San Francisco sound from the 1960’s.
‘The Rose Society’ comes some five years after Rockne’s debut album, ‘Queen of San Antonio’. A lot has happened in those years. She briefly moved south to Los Angeles, then back north, toured small venues around the U.S., went to the Far East, fell in love and gave birth to a daughter. All of referenced in the album, though obliquely.
The opening lines of the first song, ‘Age of the Voyeur’ set the tone for the rest of the album: “I could drink from the well and bathe in the stream, Of a daydream that was still lucid.” This concrete imagery, mixed with the fantastical, conjures up Robert Hunter in songs like ‘Ripple’ or ‘Box of Rain’. This juxtaposition continues, merging personal vignettes with more universal and poetic images.
In ‘The Distance Is High’, she sings: “You know god’s watching as you skip through the years, Sowing seeds with a hungry heart, When you know it’s barren around here”. Then, the mysterious lines: “Sound it carries, the way waters want, To rush through the canyons, To outlive the venom in his thoughts.”
‘Protection, Prayers and Vigilance’ has echoes of early Jefferson Airplane guitar sound. The slow electric guitar backed by drums accompanies this song about Rockne’s move to Los Angeles. ‘Night Dreams’ begins with single ringing notes, again reminiscent of the Jefferson Airplane in ‘Friends’.
‘Crystalline’ has a Dylanesque quality with its mixture of specific details and more obscure phrases: “Last night, we killed the man that caused the genocide/Confronted the monarch, we found our queen, All was erased from memory”. Then the concrete reference to a prison visit: “Baby, I got your letter from Soledad, You’d forgotten what it means to be free, We healed each other child, it wasn’t just for me, But I will fill out that form, And drive the 101, To see you even for a moment.” In ‘Ripe To Ruin’ Rockne is more ambiguous: “I traced all my memories, To the origin of an ocean, You tell me of the sanskaras on our soul.”
Rockne’s clear voice is a bit like Emmylou Harris with just a hint of country twang. The accompaniment is simple – guitar and piano, with an overlay of orchestral strings. The sound, combined with the autobiographical and cosmic poetry of the lyrics, creates a distinctive body of work and reveals its roots. @LooseMusic