RPM Orchestra describe themselves as Proto-Industrial Americana music with a dash of old-fashioned hiss and scratch, done in the spirit of free Jazz.
The orchestra composes and performs original scores to accompany films of the Silent Era, provides musical scores in collaborative multidisciplinary performances, records soundtrack music for contemporary films and regularly performs at various music venues.
The concept of “Proto-Industrial Americana music” intrigued me, so it was with some excitement that I started listening to Stepwise.
A word of warning: Stepwise is not always an easy album to listen to. It has original scores to accompany movies of the Silent Era, which means some tracks are hard to enjoy on their own.
“Curious Nature”, for example, makes very little sense by itself, but you must listen to it in context, which is what I did. I went to my DVD collection, pulled out Metropolis and had the track play in the background. This worked nicely. It gave the movie a completely different feel and atmosphere.
The same goes for “Go West”, except this one has a happier vibe and goes well with a movie starring Charlie Chaplin or a silent Western.
“Rise + Shine” returns to the proto-industrial style of “Curious Nature” and rounds out the album.
The tracks in between are a mix of shorter score pieces and tracks reminiscent of the Jazz popular during the Golden Age of radio.
All in all, Stepwise is a unique listening experience, but also one that requires some investment on the part of the listener. The three longest tracks are not really enjoyable on their own, unless you are into experimental music, but they add to the viewing experience of a silent movie of your choice. The other tracks work by themselves and take you back to the 1920s and 30s.