Rosali Bite Down

Label
Merge Records
Released
22nd March 2024

Format Info

LP - pink vinyl
CD

Bite Down, the Merge Records debut of Rosali, finds acclaimed songwriter and guitarist Rosali Middleman in the midst of transition. Written after moving to North Carolina from her longtime home of Philadelphia, Bite Down is a searching, hungry record by an artist who is resolved to bite down on life, in all its horror and joy.

She is joined here by Mowed Sound David Nance (bass, guitar), James Schroeder (guitar, synth), Kevin Donahue (drums, percussion) and in studio by Destroyer collaborator Ted Bois (keys). Bite Down is Rosali’s second album working with Mowed Sound, and there is urgency and ambition in their collaboration a band pushing each other not just to expand on what they’ve already done together, but to break through into altogether new territory.

Among those joining Rosali and her band there is Dan Bejar of Destroyer, who waxes poetically on where she’s been, where she’s going, and how thrilling Bite Down is to experience:

It’s hard to talk about Rosali’s music. Songs that reach outward like this, but then constantly disarm with their intimacy. What do you call such inner searching that is hellbent on rollicking? Songs that long for a sense of peace and songs that want romance, all on equal footing in the same plot of earth? Performed wild, but always centered around the incredible lyrical calm that is Rosali’s voice.

Bite Down makes me think about singers and bands that throw themselves hard into the storm, the way the Rosali quartet does. (Jim captures the tone of this perfectly, again!) The calm of her voice over top of the band’s raging it is the emblem of songs that live to put themselves in harm’s way. But it’s not harm. It’s just that you have to play hard to get at these goods. The calm of Rosali’s voice, the straight talk of her inner search vs. the wildness of the band, the sonic storm she rides in on. That’s their sound.

The Mowed Sound. It’s hard to talk about these last couple Rosali albums without talking about them. They play free and wild and relentlessly melodious. They rip and create space and fill it up with what seems like reckless abandon, but listen carefully or listen for a while and you’ll find them paying real close attention to each other and exactly what the song demands. Maybe Fairport did this, maybe VU. It’s a strange telepathic brew.

Breezier songs like “On Tonight” and “Rewind” sound like they’ve fought their way to get to that sense of ease. Maybe that’s the Mowed Sound “sound”—hard-won ease. Then add to that Ted Bois’ patented Rhodes sleaze (see sinuous title track “Bite Down”) steering the record into late-night corners; the incredible “Hills on Fire” (maybe the centerpiece of the album), the guitar-ripping and the singing taking turns in reaching new levels of intimacy. It feels listened-in on, exposed and invented on the spot. It is also simply a staggeringly beautiful song. There are a few of those on the album. In contrast, “My Kind” is a raucous, hand-delivered classic; the band throws tables over. For the most part, this is a moodier record than No Medium. It has the same sound of “I’ve travelled through fire to deliver you these songs,” but it is also quieter, more nocturnal. The quiet dread of

staring down an open road, and the excitement of that.

By the final track, “May It Be on Offer,” it is the prayer uttered as you hand yourself over to the world.