Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

ROCH explores her own existence and spaces on debut outing Via Media

"Via Media"

Release date: 06 March 2020
04 March 2020, 09:00 Written by Rob Hakimian
London-based artist Kate Miller is a Central Saint Martins graduate, and in her time there she was most fascinated by sculpture and spatial practice.

This carries over into Via Media, her debut album as ROCH, where she immediately puts us into a living, breathable space, with the opening line: “Japanese knotweed fresh between our feet / our place is ubiquitous and safe.”

Sense of place is carried through Via Media, not just in her words but also in the expansive synth productions. Miller’s moniker comes from St. Roch - the patron saint of the plague - her confirmation name. In her glistening and floating music, she takes on this saint-like poise, looking at people of all levels of morality and treating them with patience and empathy.

When listening to any song on Via Media, the breadth of vision is large, as if we’re in an infinite space that could transform into anything, but it’s Miller’s voice and the emotions that she’s expressing which carve it into a definitive shape. These can be places of peace, and conversations with close friends; places of camaraderie, where she casts her mind back to Saint Martins; or places of strife, where she observes nasty character changes in people around her.

These instances are always placed around weighty ideas; despite her relatively youthful 24 years, Miller ambitiously approaches topics informed by her own experiences and conversations, always striving to derive something personally profound. The sensuously drifting “All Time Favourite Girl” is a highlight, capturing the feeling of unity that comes when sitting down for an intimate discussion with someone whom you love and respect, where they can allay your worries through their own view of the world, giving you hope and determination that you couldn’t find on your own.

Miller’s lyrical strength lies in her way of observing from the outside, either herself, people she knows, or social constructs, and trying to interrogate them. The powerful “Blackbird” is a self-examination, where her voice reaches its most dramatic heights as she attempts to coax herself out of her shell, demanding: “You must be better than this.” Her transformation in the song “Monster” is more troublesome, as she describes how she’s contorted and re-structured herself to suit the wants of the titular beast, with skeletal beats and atmospheric sound-beds reflecting the singer’s vulnerability.

She pushes herself to some philosophical areas too. “I Love To You” is an examination of the phrase “I love you”, holding it aloft in a soft-focus world of blanketing sounds, then driving home her idea that it “is never equal / one hand is stronger than the other” with a dynamic surge of electronics. Closing track “Little Girl” is maybe the most personal in the set, describing what she sees her loss of innocence at the age of 16 when she “got rid of my little girl” through various undesirable acts. Nevertheless, Miller ends the song, and the album, with a few minutes of chirping birds, once again setting us back in a calming space.

On first listen Via Media could easily be pigeonholed as a synth-pop album. But, like a good sculpture or installation, it takes several loops around the work to fully see and understand how it transcends its medium – and Via Media undoubtedly merits and rewards this attention.

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