It’s been a busy year for Tommy Rogers. His flagship project Between the Buried and Me released their new album Automata in March and July (we’ve spoken enough about how silly this is), and was a promising upswing in the BTBAM discography. As the end of the year closes, Automata found itself on a couple of year-end best-of lists online at various metal blogs, and deservedly so. The album even spawned the group a Grammy Nomination for “Condemned To The Gallows” (why it wasn’t for the swinging jazz romp “Voice of Trespass” we’ll never understand, but good news nonetheless). With this new album success, family life, and tours all around, how Tommy Rogers had time to put finishing touches on a new solo record in his Thomas Giles project is remarkable and unbelievable. Even moreso given how great this new record is.
Don’t Touch The Outside, Thomas Giles’ fourth proper full-length under the moniker, takes the retrowave and electronic influences on previous outing Velcro Kid (2016) and imbues those new wave vibes with some of the wilder experimentation and genre diversity which made Pulse (2011) and Modern Noise (2014) so incredible. This project, therefore, feels more like a dynamic and eccentric prog rock record that speaks to his creative potential as well as his experience as a songwriter to Between the Buried and Me over the years. Yes, shades of BTBAM come and go sporadically, aided by the inclusion of drummer Blake Richardson to Don’t Touch The Outside’s personnel, with tracks like “Weather Moods/Panic Start” and “Incomplet” having moments of wonky prog that wouldn’t sound out of place on the group’s previous two records.
But Don’t Touch The Outside feels freer and looser than recent-era BTBAM, which might contribute towards a more personally satisfying record spin. Tommy curates an atmosphere on each track, which compliments his array of guests. The understated “Milan” was no doubt inspired by Ulver’s latest opus The Assassination of Julius Caesar before he ever invited Kristoffer Rigg to sing on the track, and the collaboration is inspired; prior to 2018, who would have thought that Garm and the singer of BTBAM would ever appear on a recording together?
Tommy leans into the retrowave and new wave pool of influences on the highlight “Everyone is Everywhere,” which features the crooning falsetto of Leprous‘ Einar Solberg against Rogers’ David Bowie-like affectations. “I Win” is a favorite, with playful (if not frightening) and overblown synths and a rap verse from Candiria’s Carley Coma. While these guest spots offer the highest peaks of the album, it doesn’t undercut Rogers at all, as his writing perfectly complements the strengths of his guests.
Rogers also borrows from his experience and influence from film scores; in 2015, Rogers composed the score for indie film Dutch Book and self-published the score through Bandcamp, and it appears to be a little-known addition to his body of work. Rogers has been no stranger to cinematic influences in BTBAM and his solo work — particularly by way of Danny Elfman and John Carpenter — but Don’t Touch The Outside features looser instrumental moments stacking the second half with “Take Your Seats, Time Gentlemen” and much of “1709” which would work in the context of film score. The same can certainly be said about much of the record at large given the nature of the instrumentation and atmosphere.
Unfortunately with relatively little publicity surrounding this record and its late addition to an already stacked year in music, Don’t Touch The Outside has been slept on and overlooked despite rivaling (and perhaps outright bypassing) Automata in creative and progressive musical accomplishment. At the very least, it’s a sleeper hit that once again proves Rogers as one of the bright creative forces in progressive and extreme music genres at the moment.
Thomas Giles’ Don’t Touch The Outside was released November 9th, 2018 through Sumerian Records. Copies available at this location.