OWD013 Surface Industries I – Paul Rooney

OWD013 (Oct. 2021).

Digipak CD/digital album.

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Rooney’s second solo album is a move away from the eclectic DIY post-punk of 2017’s ‘Futile Exorcise’ towards voice, piano and electronics led skewed ambient pop. As it’s title suggests, this new album’s tracks are themed around service industry jobs (it is the first of two albums on this theme), particularly the transient vocal interactions of everyday call centre work, as well as the humanity and humour that endures through it all. The lyrics of the pieces often use interviews or texts from the workers themselves, made during the early to mid 2000’s.

Stay Polite is a deeply emotive male voiced hymn to the abuse filled day of a female taxi company phone operator, featuring a beautifully fragile lead vocal by acclaimed folk singer Jackie Oates. On the album’s longform spoken word piece, Words and Silence, softly insistent modular synth tones accompany an Indian call centre worker leaving a message – of invented personas and time-as-commodity – on an answer service, creating an extended moment of mysterious confabulation for the eventual listener (us). As well as phone interactions there are two pieces about the text based interplay of email conversations and chat-rooms. The latter, Don’t Throw Up On Window Sills, being a kind of chamber opera about a gardening chat group celebrating the return of a missing cat, imbued with the melancholy of obsolescence (the chat-room fad itself is all but extinct). The album is a poignant, reflective encounter with everyday failures, everyday battles, and everyday resistances, pertinent to our precarious times.

1. Hold the Line for a Moment 5:08 video
2. Stay Polite (with Jackie Oates) 3:44
3. J for Whatever 2:40
4. Words and Silence 13:21 video
5. J for Juliet 4:40
6. Don’t Throw Up On Window Sills 3:50
7. Good Morning Call (with Jackie Oates) 4:22
8. That Venus Thing 4:00

“Yet again, there is another stunning album that’s been released by Paul Rooney.” Zaph Mann, In Memory of John Peel Show (KFFP Radio, Portland and podcast). 13/08/2021.

“A track from local artist Paul Rooney’s second album, a real treasure trove of glorious computer composed hyper-pop.” George Maund, PMS (BBC Radio Merseyside). 20/8/2021.

“This new album Surface Industries, his second solo album, tracks themed around service industry jobs… it really is fascinating.” Stuart Maconie, Stuart Maconie’s Freak Zone (BBC 6 Music). 23/8/2021.

“2017 saw his LP Futile Exorcise rank as my Album Of The Year. This follow-up might even be a bit better, if that’s possible. It is indeed completely unique and totally inimitable.” Gavin Hellyer (Bandcamp website). Aug. 2021.

“A new release from Paul Rooney, that in itself is always a reason for celebration… beautiful album…” Pete Jackson (Dandelion Radio). Sept. 2021.

“That’s Paul Rooney from his excellent new LP, the track there was called Words and Silence… we do love Paul Rooney on Dandelion Radio…” Rocker (Dandelion Radio). Sept. 2021.

“There you go, thirteen minutes and twenty one seconds of magnificence… Words and Silence by Paul Rooney…” Leo Gilbert (Dandelion Radio). Sept. 2021.

“…continues to put out tremendous releases, Paul Rooney…” Mark Whitby (Dandelion Radio). Sept. 2021.

Meg Woof (The Wire magazine online). Oct. 2021 online preview and video.

“These eight tracks have been created over a period of two decades, mostly using texts derived from call centre operatives. They occupy a space where folk music might have developed, up to that juncture when meaningful tradition and continuities of locality dissolved into the glacial wastes of cyberspace, global capitalism and the unsolicited sales pitch.” Julian Cowley (The Wire magazine). Oct. 2021.

“Service Industries I makes strip-lit minimalist psalmodies from call centre conversations of invisible workforces… It’s a profound, political, and holy work, worth a thousand Panoramas.” Stewart Lee (The Idler magazine). Forthcoming: Nov.-Dec. 2021.