Surface Industries I and II
Two digipak CD/digital albums, 2021-2023.
Owd Scrat Records, OWD013/OWD015.
Surface Industries I tracks:
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 video
Surface Industries I I tracks:
1. Something Happening (Sound of the Crowd) (with Saskia Cocker) 4:36 video
2. In the Distance the Dawn is Breaking 3:20
3. Dear Guest 9:00 video
4. Open Plan 4:13
5. On This Pitch 4:40 video
6. A Million Darkened Kitchens (with Frankie Armstrong) 4:11
7. Tea, Coffee and Desserts 2:48
8. Dust 7:50 video
9. Willem van Liverpool 2:29
10. In My Head 1:41
11. Author’s Route Through France 3:34
12. Psalm (live at Tate Liverpool) 3:31 video
Owd Scrat Records press releases: “Rooney’s second solo album Surface Industries I 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 lyrics of Paul Rooney’s third solo album Surface Industries II, like it’s predecessor, are themed around service industry occupations, this time focussing on roles in retail, banking and hospitality, often using interviews with the workers themselves. The songs describe transient everyday customer interactions and repetitive drudgery, but also reveal creative moments of playfulness, mischief and vengeance. The music is voice led with a spoken word and choral focus, but it often collides real voices with synthesized, digitally processed mock/real chimes and beats that echo the laminated, wipe-clean, customer-captivating environments the songs emerge from.
“Something Happening is an arpeggiated Arp re-working of Sound of the Crowd, with the words of a Sheffield bank clerk whose branch is on the site of the dancefloor where The Human League’s Jo and Suzanne were ‘discovered’ by Phil Oakey. It also features an affecting lead vocal by original Pulp member Saskia Cocker. The up-tempo, longform spoken word piece, Dear Guest, contains a hotel room attendant’s descriptions of debris left after three moments in the history of the Manchester hotel where she works, and touches on the Peterloo Massacre, a Bob Dylan heckle and a room service breakfast tray. There are pieces inspired by library staff, a nightclub singer’s lost voice, domestic kitchen work, a Big Issue seller’s favourite pitch, a hotel maid’s Pirate Jenny-influenced daydreaming, and shop workers’ sleeping dreams. The latter, In the Distance the Dawn is Breaking, mixes pitch-shifted piano with a slow-motion vocal harmony that describes a dream of flying in an eerily silent plane, a moment of haunting beauty and unsettling helplessness.
This collection is the final part of a long-term, poignant and reflective project – a sonic encounter with everyday failures, everyday battles, and everyday resistances, pertinent to our precarious times.”
Buy via Owd Scrat Records Bandcamp.
“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). Jan-Feb. 2022.
“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.
“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… Rooney is an unusually attentive, perceptive and responsive artist and his work salvages touchstones for human value, and seeks to fend off their erosion.” Julian Cowley (The Wire magazine). Oct. 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.
“Curiosity was twigged by a Wire magazine review… I was expecting something far less accessible based on the review… surprisingly accessible and compelling.” Nate Champion (Thumped website and forums). 28/12/2021.
“It’s a great thing. Paul Rooney, always up to something good…” Michael Fenton (Fenny), On the Wire (Otwradio on Mixcloud and occasionally BBC Radio Lancashire). 18/9/2021.