You Can’t Go Wrong With Rongorongo! is an album name that sounds (delightfully) like a midcentury ad for a novelty toy. It originated as a joke among members of the experimental psych band Rongorongo. The band name references an ancient writing system discovered centuries ago on Easter Island; the band behind it made exploratory Avant-rock in Chapel Hill in the late aughts.
Formed in 2007 as an outgrowth of a larger avant-garde music and film collective, the band consisted of childhood friends and then roommates Ellis Anderson, Morgan Friedman, Sidney Martin, and Nathan Toben. They released two reverb-charged, rhythmic psych EPs between 2007 and 2008—home-burned CDs they distributed at shows—before dissolving in late 2008.
In 2021, following the sudden passing of primary singer, guitarist, and songwriter Sidney Martin at the age of 36, the other former members began working on an archival release. The resulting compilation includes newly remastered versions of both EPs, an early version of “Caveman,” which also appears in EP form, and a live show at Broad Street Cafe in Durham, NC, which features reworkings of studio tracks as well as two new songs.
“This song was primarily the brainchild of Sidney Martin, who wrote, sang, and played guitar on it,” Morgan Friedman says. “We were pretty young and adventurous at the time back in 2007/2008. We’d often joke around with each other about our friends becoming either a public or solitary caveman when they’d get too drunk or stoned or whatever. That caveman image was strong, and I think Sid felt inspired to take that hedonistic energy and channel it into a raw garage rocker.”
The band’s composition strategy was based on rotating instrument and vocal assignments between members, building songs through motorik beat patterns, high-frequency drones, and rhythmically dense, guitar-driven improvisations. These range from the trebley, deconstructed rockabilly of “After Midnight” to the Can-esque echo effects and surf guitar of “Little Tambourine” or “Caveman,” sometimes wildly oscillating across this spectrum within the scope of a single song.
Both the studio and live recordings benefit from a tight economy of sound: songs held in striking tension by contained dissonance, asymmetrical melody, nervy breaks, and discursive rhythmic structure. It’s a fitting document for a band that, in beautiful, jagged relief, captured the marred absurdity of an era in miniature.
You Can’t Go Wrong With Rongorongo! will be available online on November 4. Listen to “Caveman,” premiering exclusively on the INDY Week website today, below.
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