Cestine – Rugosa (Hacktivism Records, 2015)


Rugosa is, sadly, the last effort of ambient/drone project Cestine; it’s always hard producing that final record and when a band knows that they’re folding that last effort is always important and something a little special. It comes to epitomise the journey that project has come along, the maturation and refinement of ideas and sounds along the way, and ultimately come to represent their image in the best way possible. Filled with the same distant guitar lines of their previous work, Rugosa floats along in gently wistful passages in a bite size package to pleasantly close the curtain on this delicate little duo.

“Rugosa I” opens unhappily, its introduction a flood of rumbling tape sliding unquietly past before bringing the melodies it supports along, its thrumming and thick but non-empty darkness hanging over the piece like a vulture. Slow guitar drones cycle into view in haunting movements, insubstantial and vaguely morose beginnings that drift through the ethereal void before terminating before their time to allow “Rugosa II” into the frame. Falling further into formlessness it finds its drones even more distant than before, their presence falling off into the backfield and disappearing into the distance in a haze of reverb, the mind clouding over with an emotional fugue that obfuscates our mental clarity at this melancholic juncture.

But the album in its short span does quickly find its feet and pull itself back into reality; “Rugosa III” is a little more substantive, pulling slowly away from the ethereal masses as it proceeds on deliberate pulses of more empowered guitar lines, brief chinks of light filtering through the previously suffocating fugue, a sense of space beginning to emerge ahead of us in its more echoic and broader developments. Everything thus far has all been for the final track though, the album centerpiece in eleven minute closer “Rugosa IV”; once that initial fugue has been overcome we’re allowed into the slow and hopeful evolution of this carefully spun capstone, rising defiantly in a shimmering wave of soft light drone, a precipitous and fragile note circled by wavering textural impressions just creeping over the horizon to usher in a new era. With this acceptance and embrace of a bright future ahead, it collapses into itself, falling into faded cassette nothings, leaving its wistful melodies most certainly behind it in nothing more than pleasant memory.

It’s an inevitably sad end for Cestine and their fans and they do of course pander to this in their mournful retrospections, but we’re also reminded that time drags on and soon enough this will all be behind us and just a fond wisp of a memory, and that we should rightfully look forward to the bright promise of the future. Come, let us mourn Cestine’s passing together in this principally sad but gorgeous little swansong.