Other Lives



by McPherson USER (10 Reviews)
September 25th, 2015 | 2 replies

Release Date: 2015 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Moving from folk-influenced art-rock to something a little less definable, Rituals marks a strong departure for Other Lives.

It’s a small category of artists that could be considered to make “cinematic” music -- that is to say, music that manages to evoke an epic, almost fantastical sense of scale. There are different ways to achieve that sense of sublimity: the overwhelming force of doom metal can be particularly good at evoking it, as can cavernous, mood-oriented electronic music (Jon Hopkins, for example, or the Haxan Cloak).

With Rituals, their third album, Other Lives come by that sense of grandiosity through a combination of baroque instrumentation and a liberal use of reverb. Album opener “Fair Weather” begins with a booming tribal drumbeat and piano chords that echo like they’re rolling out of a thundercloud. It’s an immediately immersive, almost elemental sound that generates a landscape not unlike the album’s cover art: enormous but abstract, almost subaquatic in its dreaminess.

It’s a gentle departure from the band’s earlier work, which drew heavily on folk influences. In those albums -- 2009’s excellent self-titled LP and its less successful (but still worthwhile) 2011 follow-up Tamer Animals -- the band arranged its classical and Spanish influences to create a rustic sound, made distinctive by the catharsis generated by frontman Jesse Tabish’s melancholic, build-and-release melodies. It didn’t sound quite like anything else, but it also sounded firmly rooted in this world.

Rituals, however, sounds submerged in a dream state. Gone are the folk elements and Dust Bowl references of their earlier work, replaced by the anxious neo-classicism of “Pattern” and “Easy Way Out.” Perhaps it’s reflective of the album’s overarching lyrical themes (of humans’ tendency toward ritual, and the loss that occurs when familiarity is taken away, based on the band’s experience touring the world with Radiohead and Bon Iver) that this record sounds so unfamiliar. Guitars, for instance, are a rarity on this album -- when they burst onto lead single “Reconfiguration,” it’s a surprising change of texture -- with an album’s sound built largely on pianos, strings, drums and Tabish’s slightly nasal croon.

Tabish’s songwriting remains characteristically strong as well; when the queasy melody of “Beat Primal’s” verse relaxes into the song’s exhalation of a chorus, it’s hard not to be impressed. All the reverb and instrumentation might make the songs sound ornamental or precious, but there’s a solid skeleton underneath it all.

If there is a complaint to be made with the album, it’s the length: at 14 tracks and 54 minutes, it begins to lose a sense of momentum in its back half. The songs on their own remain solid and distinguishable, but tracks like “Untitled” and “No Trouble” distract from the album’s purposeful forward motion and could have been easily relegated to B-sides and the album wouldn’t have suffered much.

But a surplus of ideas and ambition isn’t a bad thing, particularly for a band that four years ago seemed in danger of falling into a niche folk-rock rut. Instead, Rituals is an album of easy majesty, the sound of a band retreating further into the abstract landscapes of their own minds and finding something massive and beautiful inside.

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user ratings (22)

Comments:Add a Comment 
February 6th 2018


Thanks. Listening to these guys now : )

August 25th 2018


Album Rating: 4.0

Great album, t/t is amazing.

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