I was planning on writing this up yesterday - i came home grabbed one of JB's beers, popped in EP1 turned it up, and sat down in front of an open window as the first shakes and strums swam up. Headphones are where i do most my listening, and i forget how nice it is to fill a room with music, while i suppose the headphones, when they're good, offer a certain objectivity - a room lets the sounds breath and spread out, relax even.
Breathing, spreading out, relaxing - I think are important elements when listening to the first half of Oak's new double EP release, and while at first i was curious the reason for releasing two EPs after listening to both, i think anyone would agree it was the right idea... An open space, is essential for EP1, from here out referred to as "The Bird" - wind, a warm breeze preferably, from an open window like mine, with a view, or perhaps if you're prone to the meditative qualities of a solo car ride, a constantly changing vantage.
Regardless of the location though, The Bird invites participation, offering up rhythmic themes built out of shakers and bells, acoustic guitars, Oboe and synth - that repeat and build, sometimes swell, but then as quickly diffuse themselves into new form. Each passage moves almost too quickly into the next leaving me wanting more time to absorb it's particular phrasings or melody. It is in many ways like it's namesake, a bird always flitting from one branch to the next, never staying as long as one would like, yet because of that very restlessness, it feels quite at home with moving landscapes and thoughtful breezes.
I didn't end up writing the review last night, i ended up getting a bit snookered - Toby was there though, so i didn't feel so bad.
I told myself that tonight I'd sit down after Yoga and do this thing - I'm exhausted actually, Jane my Yoga-lady (Jenny's sister.) put me through the wringer - and squeezed every drop of salty sweat i think i have in me, out. Along with that went most of my anxious thoughts, the ones that rattle around in my head all day long, the cyclical ones that I'd like to thing are spiraling up towards some kind of resolution, or at the very least, down and out of my consciousness. I think i'll be good until morning. In the meantime i can sit in my bedroom in these headphones and watcho ut my window at the stillness of pine trees that line the unitarian church. A wonderfully fitting setting for EP2, The Turtle. While i suppose i could come up with another multi layered analogy i think it makes the most sense to state the obvious and most fitting. "Slow and steady wins the race."
The turtle is the inversion of the first EP, dense and ominous, rolling out in beautifully textured washes that while drawing elements from post-rock and various drone/space acts are their own. Drone is so hard to do well; for it to be compelling it has to captivate without the traditional elements of obvious rhythm and melody. So the emphasis is put on pure sonic texture and building and (perhaps?) releasing of tension; skills that even the best musicians don't necessarily have a clue about. And while The Bird displayed superb chops and energy - The Turtle is where Oak really shines - albeit through a cobalt prism.
Each one of the tracks on The Turtle grow and pulse with superbly complex and difficult to pinpoint texture that leaves me almost excited for the next wave to break over my ears - all the while i'm content to be mindless and stare up at the ceiling, or over across the room at JC Penny's as she stares back at me with that, "and..." expression. No, i'm not high... I'm just enjoying this music.
The Bird and The Turtle are excellent compliments to one another. They offer a sort of vague point/counter-point statement - a statement that i feel Oak as a band are as of yet, reluctant to come out and say, or at least define... But with these being their first releases, and having only been together for a short time as a band it seems obvious to me that these two recordings together are akin to watching a bird tentatively sneak towards a breadcrumb, or a heavy summer storm move across the plains.
Casey Rea's review is up at Sevendays |read|