VH x RR is the collaborative project of American-based pairing Von Hertzog and Rob Rowe.

Von Hertzog is best known as a producer and the studio guru behind The Social Club complex, while Rob Rowe was the singer of CAUSE & EFFECT who had four albums and numerous EPs to their name.

Rather like two astronauts in separate spaceships but on the same mission, the pair have still yet to actually meet in person, with Hertzog operating his complex outside Philadelphia while the English-born Rowe works from his home studio in Seattle.

In 2020, the duo opened their account with ‘The Persistence Of Memory’ EP, the first of their Cosmos Trilogy themed around the wonders of the universe which was followed up the following year by ‘A Sky Full Of Ghosts’.

The final segment ‘On the Shoulders of Giants’ now hits the airwaves and takes its name from the book by the late great Stephen Hawking celebrating the history of physics and astronomy. It’s an expansion of the steadfast musical and lyrical imagery that illustrated the first two EPs.

The strident ‘Shattered Bones’ opens ‘On the Shoulders of Giants’ with a brooding widescreen mood and RR even vocally expresses tinges of Jim Kerr from SIMPLE MINDS in a midtempo statement on the fragility of existence in this collapsing world.

‘Slipped’ is no less cheerful in its weary expression of loss, something that Rowe has had tragic experience of. But it glistens despite the melancholy in the anguished delivery and within the layered harmonisation, there’s a glimmer of hope.

With a thrusting octave shift, the anthemic ‘Heavenly Outline’ takes the pace up very slightly although this is not exactly a hands-in-the-air experience, its message is to take chances and overcome fears because you only live once.

Driven by a throbbing engine room, ‘The Undertow’ in an absorbing cosmic adventure while on sister song ‘The Fray’, a vintage drum machine backbeat is the core of a spacey never ending story seeking light and love; Hertzog himself sees these two songs as “yin and yang”.

Closing with an unexpected but subtle percussive mantra, ‘Don’t Let Go’ closes ‘On The Shoulders Of Giants’ with a flash of optimism to counter that darkness that has lingered over a trilogy that has dug into the human condition via its inter-galactic metaphors.

The concept is as much metaphysical as it is existential and as VH x RR have stated, “Ideas do not exist in a vacuum. They are the result of, and informed by, the past”.

While the songs, the singing and the production cannot be faulted, if there is a criticism, then it is that the protracted midtempo nature of this EP and the trilogy may be heavy going for some listeners.

Despite that, there are some excellent tracks and existing followers of Von Hertzog and Rob Rowe will cherish this latest VH x RR release with its emotional intensity and felicitous sonic easel to compile themselves a full length album from these three bodies of work.

‘On The Shoulders Of Giants’ is released as a CD EP and to online platforms on 10th September 2022 https://vhxrr.bandcamp.com/album/on-the-shoulders-of-giants





Text by Chi Ming Lai
6th September 2022