Where Are You, Joshua Rowan?

GravidaCoverArt

Cover art for “Gravida” by torch (Joshua Rowan), 1999

So I was recently pruning my iTunes library, now hoary with over a decade of divergent file formats, encoding policies, and rating systems, when I came across a singleton mp3 I’d downloaded back in high school, probably after it was linked from the WEF. It was the track “Neptune Drowning,” from the album Gravida by artist “torch.” I discovered I still really, really liked it. It’s a lovely scratchy, electro-industrial thing that builds on itself with measured pace and is bookended with wryly contrasted intros and outros. It would be easy to imagine it as the music over an opening credits sequence heavy with CGI machines building other machines. A great piece of work. I don’t know why I’d let it languish in my library for so many years, but now I wanted to know more.

Unfortunately, the album and the artist seem to have almost fully disappeared from the internet. All I was easily able to find were three copies for sale on Amazon. I paid $4 shipping on a fourteen cent used CD from 1999, and have given it a few listens. It’s a pretty strong piece of work, especially for a self-produced first album. It’s experimental electronica that ranges from ambient droning to trance atmospherics to the heavy industrial sound of the track I linked, with the latter two frequently overlaid. Some of the tracks feel kind of shapeless or insufficiently complicated in their experimentalism, but more often they are quite satisfying. “Neptune Drowning” is the standout, but “Perfect Skin,” “New Religion Test Drive,” and “Blueline” are all songs that I would have happily bought from iTunes, and the whole album (save for a weird moment in the otherwise solid, 11-minute opening track “Pillar Song” where there are suddenly the only lyrics on the album for a minute) runs nicely from start to finish as a good hour of working music. If I’d encountered this disc in ’99, I would have been excited for the next torch offering.

As far as I can tell, though, there was no next torch offering. The liner notes inform me that torch was a guy named Joshua Rowan, and that the album was released by the label Locuna. They used to have a website, Locuna.com, which doesn’t exist anymore. The Internet Archive shows they were active as late as 2006, and the projects page there lists the other artists involved with the label, some of which have cached mp3s you can still download. I’m inferring from their presence on the projects page that the main act was a group called Subsurface, who seem to still exist on Soundcloud under username Locunabpm, listed as Shawn Donoho from St. Louis. I can find nothing else about Joshua Rowan, though. Did he ever make any more music? Maybe under another name? What about the other Locuna artists? Were any of them equally good? I am now extremely curious about this outfit in general, and Joshua Rowan in particular. If you are still out there, vanity googling yourself, and you see this, please leave a comment orĀ get in touch.

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  1. I’ve included a link to the .mp3 of “Neptune Drowning” because it was previously available for free download, and because there seems to be no legitimate way of accessing it any more, aside from tracking down and buying a used cd. I will, though, take it down if anyone associated with Locuna or Joshua Rowan object to this use.

  2. Josh was the artist I chose for all my tattoo work, as did my daughter. He is a great guy, beautiful artist and a talented man.

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