Review Summary: "Did you hear what I made you do, and what you're doing to me?"
It was only a matter of time until Oceana changed their name. The release of their ambient metalcore debut, The Tide
, was shortly followed by the departure of vocalist Keith Jones and drummer James O'Brien. Brennan Taulbe, originally brought in to play guitar and keyboard, became full-time vocalist for Birth. Eater
, their darker, more lyrically driven follow up. Only 24 days after its release, though, Oceana announced their break up. Various new projects with new sounds were formed, but were short-lived. Oceana had reunited by October. By May they had released the Clean Head EP
, their finest work at that point. It was a sonic departure; a cleaner, more personal and progressive sound that severed all metalcore roots of their past, and did so convincingly. A new LP was promised within a year, but the date was continually pushed back as they wrote, changed their line up, re-wrote, left Rise Records, changed their line up some more, and re-re-wrote. By this point, after writing for over two years and with only one original member left, the Oceana that finally announced One Big Particular Loop
were a different band to the Oceana that started in 2007.
Now Polyenso, One Big Particular Loop
- their long-awaited, fan-funded and self-released 'debut' - displays a sound so inventive and so far removed from anything Oceana created that releasing it under a new name, free from any label associations, is the only logical step, at least while we figure out what to actually do with it. It's like Clean Head
spent a season immersed in New Orleans funk and jazz festivals, and then filtered those experiences through the meticulous, almost scientific approach of Radiohead. Comparisons to Radiohead are inevitable, partly because OBPL
has clear Kid A
and In Rainbows
influences and is immersive in a similar way, but also because Brennan Tauble sounds like Thom Yorke's more soulful American cousin. Having developed his vocals beyond simply screaming then singing, the improvement in his voice is remarkable. His voice is now silky smooth, and the transitions between his tenor and newly-found higher register are angelic, even as he reaches to realms of falsetto. Despite similarities, though, comparisons between Polyenso and Radiohead are passing observations rather than hindrances on the album's listening experience.
Taking influences from jazz, funk and soul music, the vast array of instruments have seemingly been afforded freedom to wander as they colour in the canvas built by the wonderfully intricate rhythm section. Even Taulbe's vocals, as charming and welcoming as they are, are often more a texture in the soundscapes than emotionally revealing. The atmospheres created in songs such as "Dog Radio", "Push" and "Meeting Grey (Cricket)" are good examples of the band's ability to paint soulful soundscapes in a way that belies their tender years, while Taulbe's vocal range in "Pocket Soul" is mesmerizing in its motions from dark to beautiful, even recalling Thom Yorke at his best as it melts into the instrumentation around it.
This record flows so seamlessly that, once you're lost in its soundscapes, it's easy to forget it has taken years to piece together. For that, the impeccable production of Matt Goldman - arguably the finest of his career - deserves a lot of praise. There's so much going on in every song, yet no element gets lost - the record is perfectly balanced and poised throughout. Opener "((O.B.P.L.", the first and finest example of how great the production is, brilliantly combines the essence of the album in just four minutes by introducing each element record one-by-one: it's synthesized intro, the looped tribal rhythm section, delicate piano and guitar lines, a celebratory, festival-esque trumpet concluding with Taulbe's beautiful vocals atop the flawless instrumental composition. The album's standout track "Always Ending In You", Polyenso's masterpiece and a contender for 2013's most affecting song, features an impressive juxtaposition between immaculately constructed layers of ambient, chilled out rhythms with the desperate solitary trumpet and longing hook of "No one feels you like I do"
. While it would be a fitting closer, "Be Too Well (Always)" is a deserved lap of honour and the actual closer "Doom))", little more than the rest of the band clearing the instruments out of the room as Taulbe plays piano, is a worthy end as it's so intimate it becomes eerily moving.
Often verging on brilliance yet never settling for anything below excellence, One Big Particular Loop
stands as an exhibition in severing your roots and reinventing yourself. Playing as one continuous gorgeous motion, it's immersive, texturally rich and brimming with creativity and ideas, astutely tied together by Matt Goldman's production masterclass. Years in the making and 58 minutes long, One Big Particular Loop
isn't escaping any accusations of indulgence. However, when you're as talented as Polyenso are, a little indulgence only adds to your beauty.