ODAE – If Things Had Memories, The Stories They’d Tell (Morning Hour Records, EP, 2014)


A lack of clarity and consistency is a challenge for artists both old and young; establishing a central theme, developing it and maintaining it whilst keeping things active and innovative is an uphill struggle even for the experienced, so I think we can cut 16 year old Ruairi O’Brien under his ODAE alias a little slack on this, his 3rd EP. Hovering in an increasingly diverse grey-zone between Ambient, IDM and Downtempo, ODAE touches base with Tycho, Hanetration and even Autechre across its introspective 30 minute span, and while it’s a crisp production effort I can’t help but feel a little lost in its meandering experimentation at times.

Designed to accompany strolls through antique and charity shops and the wistful gazing upon their wares, If Things Had Memories attempts to summon faded memories from sight and sound alone and intermingle our reality with this day-dreaming; launching on tumultuous opener “Roil” we’re thrust into our own mind with great rapidity, filling the cranial silence with glowing electronica and walls of reverb-glazed glitch, yet still retaining a certain presence in its café clatterings and coffee table musings, our minds wandering over brunch. Its wailing closing moments segue into the Autechre drones of “The Crunch Period”; dark and moody, it unfolds drum machine breaks and airs a haunting but driven atmosphere in its smeared and ethereal backdrop, reminiscent of some of Oversteps‘s more cerebral moments before drowning in a gurgling diminuendo.

Its dim and haunting vibes change track rapidly as it melts effortlessly into the interesting “My Name Is Number Seven”, blowing away the previous melancholy with carousel-esque organ blats, warm spurts of sound that supplement the rapid Post-Rock guitar riffing that drives the piece forward in a pleasant and energised way. It begins to lose a little steam, perhaps not quite sure how to unfold, and moves into gauzy field recordings and intermittent, passionate piano attacks that sound a lot like Past Is Prologue era Tycho, which I love. It’s vaguely frustrating that he doesn’t sustain this seaside retro-nostalgia any further; followup “Just” holds onto it just a little bit as it spins shimmering guitar picks that float through the cluttered shufflings of the foreground, eaking out some really beautiful and delicate synth lines towards its midsection but once again unsure of how to proceed and ultimately devolving into nonsensical choral chanting and dark, smudged vocal processings that just don’t really fit in despite how well they rise out of the piece.

These clipped Hanetration-esque movements become the dominant entity for the remainder of the tracks too, with “Dollar Bill Language” progressing rather disappointingly from tympanic drum machines and languid electronica into more synth drone focused turnings, subsequently feeling sufficiently happy with its position and failing to move from it.

“California one ninety-three”,

some spectral voice rasps out of a brief lull amidst its sun-kissed and lazy energy; it feels like it wants to take off and escape these soporific throes but instead languishes in boring and unprogressive turnings that begin to grate. After the refreshing 40 second interlude of droning “Rosemary Stretch”, closer “418” arrives to round off the album, except it doesn’t really feel like we’ve moved anywhere since “Dollar Bill Language”, with that programmed, idiosyncratic, chirruping beat annoyingly cutting through the mix once again. The real meat of this track feels suppressed, like underneath its tolling bells and mulched drum machines there’s a melodic heart just lost in time and space, crushed under the repetitious, albeit luxurious, electronics above.

I just never feel like I’m transported with this release and that’s kind of the entire suggested premise of it; weirdly it’s the darker early tracks that pique my interest the most because they retain a certain level of consistency and feel captivatingly ethereal. The rest just feels a little off-kilter, a little confused in its presentation and unsure where emotionally it’s holding itself; bleary, beautiful, sun-kissed moments fall away to illogical and discordant choral chanting or become caught in cyclical drones and boringly idiosyncratic drum lines that don’t really hold any of the tension or anxiety I think they’re supposed to evoke, making much of the later tracks somewhat messy and underwhelming. That being said the production cannot be faulted; everything is crisp and on point, the beats undeniably driving many tracks forward and the cute field recordings adding a certain personal dimension when included, I just wish there was a little more focus here to get behind.

Watch this space though, there’s a lot of potential here, mark my words.