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A Negative for Francis

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Album Review

Brit bliss rockers Rothko are a breath of fresh air on the instrumental scene. This, their debut album, follows a handful of singles and EPs, all of which were lauded critically. What makes Rothko unique is that the only guitars this band plays are bass guitars. Yep, Rothko is a trio of basses and carefully constructed sonic atmospheres. There are large ambient textures, simple but beguiling riffs, and dreamy melodies not unlike the Cocteau Twins' starker moments, at least instrumentally. This is a natural, as the Cocteau Twins' Simon Raymonde produced two of the 16 tracks here. Small, shimmering melodic ideas are introduced by one or two of the players, who alternate creating vistas of airy but complex harmonics and finely wrought timbral investigations based not only on dynamics, but on scalar frameworks that are rife with tonal dissension but somehow come out sounding consonant in the heavily textured, somberly colored wash. Individual song titles are ridiculous as Jon Meade, Crawford Blair, and Mark Beazely look deeply into a sideways groove and wring from it every fickle sonance they can find in a restrained, relaxed manner that keeps the music full of mystery and insinuated grace rather than declarative statements. A Negative for Francis is a wondrous and cloudy sojourn into the netherworld of musical dreams.


Formed: February, 1997 in London, England

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '90s, '00s

At first an instrumental trio consisting of three bass guitarists, and later an outlet for the solo work and collaborations of founding member Mark Beazley, the music of the London-based Rothko is often meditative, minimal, languid and sonically nebulous, a suitable musical analog for the eponymous abstract expressionist painter. The group formed, as an outgrowth of Beazley's four-track home recordings, with the addition of Crawford Blair (whom he met through a magazine ad) and Jon Meade (with whom...
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