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"A Brief Introduction to Unnatural Light Years"

Oliver Wilde – A Brief Introduction to Unnatural Light Years
18 July 2013, 10:00 Written by Chris Tapley

The debut album by Bristol based Oliver Wilde is a perfect fit for the hot flushes of a summer heatwave. His woozy kaleidoscopic pop songs seem to evaporate in hot air, fading into a sea of floating light speck as they routinely blossom and wilt back and forth in an atmosphere of dizzying heat.

A Brief Introduction… doesn’t play into any tropes of summer though, instead it’s hot and muggy; an exercise in humid disorientation. Wilde’s music has a quietly abstract nature which draws a fine line between familiarity and distance, it could be categorised among the hypnagogic nostalgi-pop swells of Washed Out; Toro Y Moi; Wild Nothing etc. but there’s also something more playful and experimental at it’s core, perhaps more indebted to Atlas Sound. Not content with re-producing hazed years of lost sounds, it attempts to unfold new ones, consistently obscuring, reversing and looping his instruments into a small world of their own, a world much further away from recognition or memory traces.

At heart he is a singer-songwriter, a forlorn figure searching for meaning; but here his is a heart regularly drowned out by a world of electronics and confusion, of constant noise. “You can know too much” he sings on ‘Something Old’; underneath there is an off-kilter symphony of creaking synths, reversed guitar strums and clandestine beats. It’s a perfect encapsulation of Wilde’s niche, his voice lilts with a standard singer-songwriter sort of clawing emotion but it is trapped in a sea of distractions, drowned out by his own machines he is desperate for a moment of clarity. Such clarity and moments of full emotional resonance don’t come neatly packaged in a nice chorus but are buried amid smoke and mirrors and noise, and it makes finding them all the more rewarding.

One such moment comes on ‘Rift’, where Wilde’s vocals emerge briefly from the fog to coo in harmony with a female counterpart, a plaintive strum drags them back to reality before being swept up again in a rush of mellifluous feedback. ‘Marlea’s Cadence’ on the other hand kicks straight into top gear, filthy overdriven shoegaze 101 riffs fuel a bit of throw away rhythm which is pleasant in its immediacy. Single ‘Perrett’s Brook’ uses tempo more effectively, with a churning melody and arid desert guitar licks providing a more memorable hook. Mostly though his songs lurk gracefully on the edges of melody, subtle intersections of sound layers which tease out their own fragile patterns and fit perfectly with his hushed reclusive vocals.

Wilde’s reserved production style is both a strength and a weakness. Offer these songs your attention and their subtleties can cast intoxicating shapes, hushed soliloquies which create their own little world, but left to grab the listener their delicate silhouettes recede easily to background noise. Even in it’s most bold moments, where whispers flower into bold psychedelic noise and Wilde’s voice makes itself known, there is more atmosphere than there are memorable hooks. Always there is a voice of soul and character rising above the noise though, and Wilde has crafted a brilliantly individual debut which while perhaps too introverted for breakout certainly labels him as a very exciting new artist.

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