Roland Tings (a.k.a. Rohan Newman) is a producer whose music is every bit as sunny as the climate in his hometown of Melbourne, Australia. His debut 12" on 100% Silk, released in 2012, was splashed in sharp primary colors and full of expressive shapes ("Roland's Beat," with its flaring digital chords and Sega-ish synths, sounded like a James Ferraro track ironed into a more wearable form), and his music has carried on in the same vein since, becoming a little more daring and carefree with each release.
The key to Roland Tings' appeal is the combination of his natural enthusiasm with an intuitive, well-practiced discipline to rein in—and, sometimes, let loose on—a song when it feels right. His tracks have a certain sugar-rush quality about them, sure, but Roland Tings is no major-key, vocal-stuffed confection (only the hearty '90s piano jam "Who U Love" actually has one). After a few listens, the mirage of this album's candied gloss and smooth topography dissolves, exposing a complex array of cogs, levers, folds, and enzymes that prop up what initially feels like a polished, easygoing house record.
On "Observatory," a number of deep house motifs converge; there's an airy string of piano keys, an aqueous sequence of chords, and a bevy of happily skipping hi-hats. Bookended by a purring arp bassline and melodies that extend and flare like kids' party horns, "Observatory"'s familiar pieces congeal into nebulous layers of melody, which glow with a joy often ascribed to Todd Terje's ineffably happy singles.
Another one of Roland Tings' strengths lies in its references—none of them particularly reverent—to music that shares its willfully naive outlook. "Endless Race" is a dance record made out of bits of library music—the sort one sometimes comes across in bygone educational science shows—and a whimsical marimba riff that recalls Steve Reich at his most fun. "Cultural Canal"'s reedy, ascending flute notes and processed utterances ("oohs," "aahs," and some digitized, mouth-born clicks) gesture to similar contexts, but its slippery bassline—twisting and coiling just beneath the surface—makes the song's natural function readily apparent.
Some tracks on Roland Tings will remind listeners of the sweetened grooves of a Nick Höppner record; others bear elements of Roman Flügel's bucolic melodies ("Pala," for example, sounds like a stiffened, slightly harried holdover from the German producer's Fatty Folders LP). In this respect, Roland Tings can occasionally feel like a sophisticated refurbishment of familiar sounds—as opposed to a ground-up creation of its own—but its presentation is so enthusiastic that it's otherwise hard to fault. More importantly though, Roland Tings is a spirited and endlessly likeable record; that's mostly down to Newman's tidy yet dense arrangements, and an eye that glances at the experimental even as it generally keeps its gaze firmly locked on the dancefloor.