21 Jun 2016

Pitchfork: Downtown NYC legend Mikel Rouse reemerges with “Habibi Lossless”

Mikel Rouse isn’t an indie-world household name, though his veteran status is secure. His 1980s group Tirez Tirez opened for Talking Heads and released an album that was distributed by the label I.R.S. (circa R.E.M.’s Dead Letter Office). But Rouse never sounded like anyone else. His love for classical music’s minimalists was as obvious as his own strategies were idiosyncratic. After establishing a groove and a hook, Rouse’s vocal part could venture beyond its original length, creating a counter-rhythm. That line might next splinter into rounds, before the addition of another delirious rhythm track.

And he can write a melody. “Habibi Lossless,” from Rouse’s new group Metronome, begins by layering drones, percussion, slide guitar, and vocals in its first minute. Then the electronic beats click in. Relying on an Arabic word for a romantic partner, the lyrics sketch a frustrated love story. (“I did not cry/To protect you from your fear.” “And we make love/In your American Dream.”) Over 10 minutes, the teasing structure delivers moments of exultation amid an overall sense of unease. Slippery like Radiohead’s “Daydreaming”—and as chaotically clattering as work by Oneohtrix Point Never—it reestablishes Rouse’s brilliance.