03 January 2012

Oscar + Martin - for you (Two Bright Lakes, 2011)

There are some albums you are not ready to enjoy at first, and you are not really sure you totally recognize as truly convincing.

I discovered Oscar + Martin, a duo from Melbourne with "What I know", I listened to the full song on Soundcloud, at first because  of their use of reverse loops in the intro, and then I was surprised by the vocal melody, which is truly indie but has some obvious debt towards hip hop & R'n'B. I listened to it several times, finally surprised to find it quite addictive and subtle.

Next I moved to Youtube and checked their video for the single "Recognise", and the experience confirmed instantly that the first good surprise wasn't an exception and discovering the album was obviously the only possible issue.

Thinking back, I believe that the principal reason to explore their album was the similitude between the vocals of Oscar Slorach-Thorn and the ones of Jacob Wilson of Kickball. Even if both band play different types of music, the vocal approach is sometimes strikingly close, a good example would be to compare "Sauvie Island" by Kickball and "Recognise" by Oscar + Martin.

Previously, Oscar Slorach-Thorn and Martin King were members of Psuche, and they released an album in 2009 for the same label. So Oscar + Martin is apparently just a reduced version of Psuche, with more degrees of freedom, and more room for experimentation. Using less elements is also a way to offer a better service to the melodies, with more opportunities to create a saving tension making the tracks worthwhile.

It is an appeasing and positive album, built mostly on keyboards, tape loops, guitar, toy instruments and beats with the (layers of) vocals always playing the first role. There is much restraint, twists, moderation in their songs and that's why often they can incorporate unusual elements and make them sound good.

‘My Blood’ sounds a little bit like lo-fi casio pop but then the R'n'B influenced vocals are in a certain way also closer to the Beach Boys than to the usual bedroom pop record, and then the lively beats bring even more confusion. It is definitely a strange object. 

The vocal experimentation on ‘Chain Maile’ seems to come in direct line from old Laurie Anderson albums - yes "Oh superman", I think about you -, but they manage to push it in a different direction with a successful turning point in the middle of the song, which gives an impression of both brightness and welcome exhaustion, the sensation you can get as you are both mentally and physically tired and you know you'll just start to enjoy a peaceful night.

I have difficulties to enjoy the afro-rhythmic, orchestral and more artificial style of ‘Oyster’. The feelings of frustration, hesitation and disappointment of ‘Lion’s Heart’ are really nice and mostly how they managed to turn this into melancholy.

"What I Know" is one of the two 'hits" of "For you". It is immediate, sensitive, playful and subtle and the male/female vocal harmonies - Bed Rigby of The Harpoons is joining (Martin King is also playing inside this band) - add both richness, stimulation and balance. Something like an unexpected mix between Ida and Havergal under hip hop influence.

"All I think about" is maybe the most interesting, deep, fragile and personal song of the album, with Oscar letting his vocals wandering around like a free flow.  I'm also fond of the imprecise structure of "Milk", from which slowly emerges a nice and sweet melody. Same fragility and sense of fracture inside ‘Party Time Is Scary’ and this aspect of their songwriting is probably what makes of Oscar + Martin a really interesting and important band. They have this capacity to bloom with innocence outside the usual ground, bringing something new which can't be find elsewhere by the listener and for this they remind me of Talons' too at times.

"Recognise" is the second hit of the album and simply their most extraordinary track of the album both musically and lyrically, a funeral song about reincarnation, with a really nice rhythmic backbone. Next to that, the last track, with soul influenced falsetto vocals, seems a little bit superficial with its romantic split-up subject .    

"For You" is a really nice album with many really good tracks but I'm curious to discover in which direction they will evolve from now.


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