Roto’s Magic Act – “Into The Unknown”
Roto’s Magic Act are led by the talented multi-instrumentalist Roto (aka James Rotondi) who has played in acts as diverse as Mr Bungle, Air and more recently The Cringe. This album is certainly a brave and bold album which has the ambition of delivering a neo-classic rock album, which is intended to take the listener on a continuous sound journey.
“Circus Clown” opens, not unsurprisingly, with a circus theme intro until we move in to a smooth pop rock number and what must be a very rare song about a circus. “Hearts In Flight” is another pop song with a sparser sound and a gentle flowing melody which recalls a Tom Petty number. Then “Happier Ever After” has a real power pop sound, with a breezy melody and fun lyrics like “I still get looks from the dancers in the cage”. The title is very appropriate, as you won’t be able to help smiling as you listen to the song. “South” is a similar bright number, with a great almost laid back reggae mid-section.
“Faraway Lands” sees the sunshine levels turned up to full, on a song which is a great pop rock track. It’s a good time song which will get you turning up the radio and driving that little bit faster. Whilst “Hot News” is another of the more rocking songs on the album. It has more of a classic rock, almost seventies feel to it, before it moves in to a more psychedelic middle part.
There is more of a singer, songwriter vibe to “Blackout” but with a Beatles esque sound underneath it. This influence is even more noticeable on “The Old Trapdoor”, which goes through psychedelia to good time rock n roll within the space of a few seconds. Roto moves in to full on singer songwriter mode though on “Into The Unknown”, which is a pure and beautiful track.
The ability to deliver a real variety of styles is perfectly demonstrated by “Strays”, it has a mixture of melodies but with more of a power pop feel to it. In fact, this track actually has a sound very much like the wonderful Jellyfish. The album ends in a reflective mood on “Heart Stops”, a song which sees a return to a more dreamy and wistful sound.
The reference to magic and circus are actually quite relevant to this album. It is full of songs which have a variety of styles and sounds, many of which entertain and occasionally surprise you. The term ‘mature pop rock’ gets a bit of a bad press, but it’s a good description of the overall sound of this album. The songs are all clearly well-crafted by a talented musician. They have the sense of someone who really knows how to construct a proper pop song. Importantly, however, this isn’t at the expense of realising that the essential element of a great song is to have a sense of melody and fun.