Premiere: R.O.C. – ‘Silver Highway’: a languid LA dream from Brixton electro collective

R.O.C., photographed by Sebastian Morrison

BRIXTON’S R.O.C, who bring the darkness and the devil-may-care to their particularly twisted twist on all things electro – I mean, who else would base a hypnotic, shadowy single for Virgin on a loop of Ugandan despot Idi Amin’s laugh? – are back in the saddle, folks; they’re all ready, a year to the day since it took place, to release a film of their London show held on the eve of lockdown – in fact, on the very night that dear ol’ Boris Johnson published his Coronavirus Action Plan. One last blast as the pandemic really started to burn.

Not only that, but they’ve also put together a proper hallucinatory sleepscape of a video to accompany the crackling, fizzing torch song of “Silver Highway”, taken from their album Bile & Celestial Beauty. We’re premiering that here today on Backseat Mafia. Take a watch below.

It’s got electricity arcing across its distorted slow groove, permits some acoustic guitar to its atmosphere, and closes that album in a languid swathe; singer Karen Sheridan brings a wearied vocal haze to her plea: “Hold my hands, hold my heart / Let’s sparkle together tonight / Alone, together.”

What could be a folksy intimacy is lent bite by all that analogue fizz, an undertow of a darker hue that plays deliciously as she part-whispers: “Step inside.” Follow her beckoning. It’s a better place.

The video is one of eight videos (or ’liquid paintings’ as they’ve been described) made for the Bile & Celestial Beauty album in tandem with director/editor Oleg Rooz, who’s worked with Enter Shikari, Dillinger Escape Plan, and Suicidal Tendencies. 

 Karen says of the song’s genesis: “I attended a wedding at The Beverly Hills Hotel. I left in the dark hours of the morning and a turquoise Beverly Hills cab pulled up. We travelled via Sunset Boulevard to the ocean and Venice. Under a full moon, everything was lit with a ghostly silver light.

“Earlier I’d watched Sunset Boulevard, the movie, and as we drove I recognised Bel Air, where William Holden had a car chase.

“When standing on high looking over LA during the day, the sunshine and haze make the boulevards and highways look like mercurial snakes – silvery and sparkling … hence ‘Silver Highways’.”

And then there’s the live film; the band, of whom the legendary John Peel once said: “You never know what you’re gonna get next from this lot – I’m all in favour of that,” threw one final bacchanalia before the lockdown way of life bit last March; this pre-viral swansong was held at Paper Dress Vintage, Hackney, London, on March 3rd last, at which they were joined by Sheep On Drugs and Micko & the Mellotronics.

With a backdrop of Oleg Rooz’s videos for the latest LP, they played nearly all that album plus past gems “I Want You I Need You I Miss You”, taken from their 1996 debut for Setanta, R.O.C.; and “Cheryl”, from 1997’s Virgin.

The venue was packed as elsewhere Boris Johnson told the UK: “Today we published the Coronavirus Action Plan. Our country is extremely well prepared, as it has been since the outbreak in Wuhan several months ago.

“For the vast majority of people, we should be going about our business as usual.”

Chillingly and presciently, in late 2018 the band’s Fred Browning had taken to promoting Bile & Celestial Beauty online by quoting the Book of Proverbs: “Catastrophe is just around the corner”.

Be careful what you wish for, but be glad R.O.C. are on hand to help us through.

The concert film, live from Paper Dress Vintage, will be available over at the band’s website from March 3rd.

R.O.C.’s Bile & Celestial Beauty is available now digitally, on CD and on vinyl, here.

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