Since 2012, Melbourne’s Rohan Newman has recorded as Roland Tings, bringing his now trademark organic touch to the dance and electronic community. In 2019, Newman released his second LP, Salt Water, a collection of introspective dance music, inspired by his 18-month stint living on the southern coast of Victoria, Australia, amidst rugged coastlines and verdant rainforests. Pitchfork praised the record’s connection to the natural world, writing, “The album has an organic essence, lush and alive like a rave in a foggy jungle.”
Less than a year after the launch of Salt Water, Roland Tings returns with a new EP, First Wave. Originally written shortly after wrapping the Salt Water sessions, First Wave is distinct in that these tracks were created in solitude – a marked shift from the highly collaborative album that preceded it, which featured a diverse range of collaborators including live drummers and vocalists. First Wave signals a return to Newman’s instinctive approach, the same ethos that guided him while crafting his earliest Roland Tings material.
“It took me a long time to find a way to come back to this more solitary way of working,” Newman explains. “After my first few records, I felt like I had really exhausted all the possibilities of working by myself, which is why so much of Salt Water was about collaborating and pushing further into new sounds. I felt a lot of pressure to go beyond what I had done before, so the goal of that record was getting others involved and trying to make something that was new to me.”
Successfully exploring those collective methods across Salt Water, Newman rediscovered his ability to find satisfaction in solitude, and to trust his instincts. “While writing the material on First Wave, I was living on the coast and I was spending a lot of time in the ocean which was a huge source of joy for me. Being in the water gave me this sense of exhilaration that I hadn’t felt for a long time, and it carried over into the rest of my life. I was able to be still, to stop reaching for something I couldn't quite grasp, and instead use the skills I had been developing since my first LP to transcend my perceived limits.”
Drawing inspiration from his coastal surroundings, First Wave is liquid, malleable and oil-slick. Opener “Lights on the Headland” pulses with acid chirps and inky synths. “Down The Line” and “Orange Circle” take a softer focus, their melodies peeking out from a humid haze like sunbursts through the marine layer. Closing track “Leaving” brings the pace down, gently undulating at a slower tempo as if underwater. For Newman, it’s the title track that captures the essence of the EP: a feeling of euphoric come-up, inspired by a fleeting moment of beauty. “I was alone in the water in the morning with the sun coming up in front of me,” he remembers. “I looked through the face of a wave was amazed by its deep emerald-green shot through with sun. Fish were swimming against the sandy bottom. The sun was glinting off their silver bodies and they looked like mirrors shooting through the water.”
The sonic throughlines on First Wave are clear: drum machines and 80s snare, swirling pads with rolls of bass, and glittering arpeggios that channel shimmering sea creatures under the water’s surface. Like liquid, it all seamlessly flows, but it’s an undercurrent of intuition and melody that unites the music as distinctly Roland Tings.