All songs written, performed and recorded by Robin Jax in rooms in Long Itchington, Warwickshire and Moseley, Birmingham (2020-2022)
with drums by Max Doohan (The Dream/Able Archer/A Tall White Fountain Played) performed and recorded at The Crypt in Sydenham, London (2022)
Mixed by Daniel Knowler at The Banks of the River Effra in Brixton, London (2022)
Mastered by Peter Junge at Castle Studios in Röhrsdorf, Saxony (2022)
All artwork by Robin Jax, except for elements of “The Flying Dutchman” by Susan Jack and photography by Simon Kallas
Masking is the term for an autistic person’s conscious or unconscious attempts to fit a square piece of self into a round hole of societal expectations. It is the pretence of the narrow yet vague definition of “normality”, asserted in every environment you step foot in; a game played where one side knows the rules and is free to apply them as they please. The other side does not willingly partake in the game, but is still beholden to the rules as they are distorted and refereed with prejudice, with the results weighted heavily against them. This participation comes at an enormous personal cost - the average life expectancy of an autistic person is 36, per studies in the United States and Sweden, exacerbated by an increased likelihood of death from suicide, heart disease and medical co-morbidities. It is a time when autistic lives are continually failed, often by the people who claim to have their best interests at heart. Unmasking is the term for the conscious shedding of trying to fit into these holes.
Robin Jax, through his solo work as RobinPlaysChords, one-half of the transatlantic duo The Companions, and founder of Tiergarten Records, has spent years trying to come to some sort of reckoning with the person he was, the person he could have been, and the person he wanted to become. Live performances saw him don an actual mask - a filter through which he could project songs previously rooted in an extremely internalised headspace. Six years on from the fantastical Teardrop Girl-Star LP, a post-apocalyptic dreaming of an album, Unmasking marks the first major evolution of RobinPlaysChords’ musical direction. It is an album of geography, humanity, flesh, blood and bone, tempered by world events that have proven that reality is stranger than fiction.
The bulk of Unmasking was recorded in the months during the UK’s first COVID-19 lockdown in 2020, but falls parallel to the upheavals caused by a global pandemic. There is another world out there, both imagined and beyond imagination. ‘Archipelago’ wordlessly surveys a vast horizon that almost feels within arm’s reach. ‘The Dream’ revels in human potential, “the divine and the obscene”. ‘Miroslava’, originally written in 2018, is a spectral declaration of love and belonging to Robin’s wife. 'Able Archer', named after a NATO exercise in 1983 that almost led to nuclear catastrophe - made eerily relevant by recent events - is the sound of visceral carnage; smouldering, explosive, with booming drums from Another Sky’s Max Doohan. 'A Tall White Fountain Played', born out of an autistic perspective of Blade Runner, tackles Advanced Behavioural Analysis and self-realisation through internal and external transformation.
Unmasking is a journey of discovery, played out from the dark in the hope of finding a light to shine upon it. It is the end result of coming to realise multiple, complex personal truths. You will hear RobinPlaysChords, unmasked and unafraid.