There’s a kind of waking-dream quality to Rozi Plain’s Prize. Or perhaps, it’s a dreaming wakefulness.
It is the album cover draws me in first – Rozi, backdropped by lake water, her hat flying in mid-air. We don’t see the ground that she stands on, just the lake, her arms outstretched before her, though also mostly out of frame, making the gesture incomplete. Is she motioning to someone? Is she welcoming something? Her gaze is aimed outside our field of vision; her face illuminated by a golden sun, but not blinded, and she sees something that we don’t.
“What should we call it?” she asks. The opening lines of the first song of the album, “What should we call it, if nothing will do?” Then a guitar follows like a thrum, a steady, pulsing rhythm, not unlike the sound of a summer evening descending. Next, the steady kick of the drum, and then, of course, the question.
…she builds out riddles and a soundscape that almost shows you what’s going on, but hazily.
How do you expand a moment? You zero in on every small detail. Perhaps you start with the grounding exercise – finding five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear etc. On Prize, Rozi Plain certainly doesn’t name things in any direct way. Rather, she builds out riddles and a soundscape that almost shows you what’s going on, but hazily. Futile attempts to remember a dream you just woke up from.
This record seems to settle into that period of late afternoon at the end of summer, when the day has stretched out forever and you can’t believe it’s still going. Right when the crickets and cicadas are coming in.
It’s early September and the weather in Chicago has just turned. It’s the sort of thing that happens with the weather that you can understand if you’ve spent long enough somewhere to be able to predict the change of a season. One week it is blistering heat, and the next it is fall. Just like that, without any ceremony. Is noticing the shift when it happens just what it is to be rooted in a space?
I just quit my job because I’m moving across the world, and my roommate is gone for an entire week, and I don’t see anyone. I don’t pack. I don’t really do anything, except for go to the lake every day: read, dip my body into a body of water and emerge sparkling and wet.
A week feels infinite and finite. It is self-contained and it becomes a piece of my body because I am trying to hold onto it so hard. I am trying to not will the days away because I don’t want them to pass anymore. I want to live in the first week of September when nothing has yet changed, except for the fact that now I have enough time to go to the lake and bathe myself in light.
I appear mysterious to myself. It is the way that, before great change, everything seems to still. You cannot quite look past your own self, but you stare so hard in the mirror and come to look other, or alien, from the person in the reflection.
The album meanders. It’s the sort of album you put on and, if you stop paying attention for even a moment, you realize a couple songs have passed by. It demands your attention if you want to give it. It demands your attention if you want to really be inside of time. Otherwise, it can fade into the din of a summer afternoon. But the magic of it really is in being there with the record. Rozi counts off seconds for you. She stretches time in her repetition. “Do you believe it, believe it, believe it yourself?” and “I’m alive, you’re alive, I’m alive, you’re alive, I’m alive, you’re alive.”
Rozi counts off seconds for you. She stretches time in her repetition.
A mantra that’s simple enough. One that bears repeating, because it’s easy to forget. Your life is just what is happening right now. Not what you can’t see in the distance of the sun setting. It is just you, with your hands outstretched and your cap flying off. Just you with a lake backdrop, your irises bathed in daylight. The song which these lyrics belong to is named “Complicated.” Curiously enough, the complication only exists when you step outside of the frame.
Though the album’s focus rests on an expansion of time, it is not obsessive with its repetition. Rozi is dipping her feet in the moment, letting the water run down stream. She is not diving in and refusing to get out. Each song seems to meander down. Seems to gently nudge you off the riverbed so that you might keep floating. “If it’s a feeling that’s going, when it goes, you won’t even know” she sings. “Goes” and “know” are stretched out and warbled, much like the act of going and the act of knowing are stretched out, how they don’t happen all at once – usually. How they are continuous until they are done. And the word is done. And then you are just looking back on a memory.
All the songs occupy a similar echo chamber, like fun house mirrors, presenting you with different iterations of the same reality. It’s not interested in elucidating or becoming very entrenched in any of these ideas, but rather, just in being present with a feeling you can almost understand. Recognizing the feeling as just a passing notion, rather than something that is constantly in need of a narrative.
Interestingly enough, this is a record of collaboration, too. Featuring the likes of jazz musician Alabaster DePlume, harpist Serafina Steer, violinist Emma Smith, synth player Dan Leavers, and many more. This further entrenches the album inside a space in time. The relation and communication with people, especially as it occurs in artistic collaboration, is one that is special and sensitive. Sitting with others and accepting their augmentations to pieces of your making is always already a rich and personal endeavor, and here it is furthering the energetic inscription of a moment that cannot be reproduced because once it is past, there is only the shadow of its memory.
The album was also recorded across many different locations, as not all of these collaborators live in the same space or were able to come together physically. This underlines the sweet, unique idea of sharing a moment – describing exactly how that moment feels and stretches and sending it off to a friend to see how they might reinterpret it based on their space, based on their experience, based on their perception of your experience.
This project… is an invitation to revisit a space in time over and over – with new awareness, with new grace, with new opportunity for communion with the physicality around you.
To release this project into the universe is an invitation to revisit a space in time over and over – with new awareness, with new grace, with new opportunity for communion with the physicality around you, the time you have, the people you share it with. And if you cannot revisit the space, you can rebuild it with what you have: a question, a hum, a chord on the piano.
© Yoana Tosheva (1/19/24) — Special for FF2 Media
LEARN MORE / DO MORE
Visit Rozi Plain’s website to note upcoming tour dates, buy merch or more.
Check out Bandcamp to buy her music and merch.
Read an interview about the lead up to the album with Rozi Plain from Birthday Cake for Breakfast.
CREDITS & PERMISSIONS
Featured Photo: Rozi Plain and her band performing live on stage at the Komedia Studio on Day 3 of the Great Escape Festival in Brighton, England on May 21, 2016. Photo Credit: Richard Gray / Alamy Stock Photo. Image ID: 2H9JD1E
Middle Photo: Rozi Plain and her band performing live on stage at the Komedia Studio on Day 3 of the Great Escape Festival in Brighton, England on May 21, 2016. Photo Credit: Roger Garfield / Alamy Stock Photo. Image ID: 2EM4E1H
Bottom Photo: Rozi Plain performing with English band This is the Kit performing during the Electric Fields Festival in Thornhill, Scotland, UK on September 2, 2017. Photo Credit: Iain Scott Photography / Alamy Stock Photo. Image ID: KAK8M5