Listening to music you’ve never heard before is no different to what the stylus, laser beam or motherboard is doing. You are simply at a point between the beginning and the end. Pushed along a vector with a tailwind of time, you are confronted by whatever the musician decides to place next.
So whilst rhythm may suggest a framework or lyrics in chorus/verse format gives some form of assurance, more abstract music has you riding that eternal now wave into the unknown. When you finally do reach the end, all the twists and turns have been drawn into your memory.
Andrew Oda’s new album Back To The Body played out like this a few days ago, a step into a new space, unsure what the music would blossom into next.
That wave of initial excitement sent us straight back to immediately purchase his previous album SOTTO, also released on the visionary Slovakian label mappa.
Taken together, both albums present some of the most incredible headphone/sofa time we’ve experience in quite a while. SOTTO is a strobing procession of sonic episodes that ripple, morph and mangle. Endless loose threads connecting into an equivalent laser cut pixel mesh
es. A rug continually being pulled from under your feet, in layers of alien sound. The 27-minute opener Sotto/Spirit is sublime, the second and final 13 minutes track Enfold is just as sublime but completely different…
Back To The Body is immediately an even more varied listen, 9 tracks spread over 71 rich minutes. There is a human story hidden here, the titles, the artwork that point towards loss and raw emotion. It may well be the music here was made as a form of distraction, and healing. The specifics are perhaps not important, but what we are left with is an achingly beautiful, and a unique aural document.
What makes Back To The Body so compelling is that patchwork ingenuity of SOTTO has grown into whole new settings where each track creates their own fully realised worlds. Oda’s palette here feels like everything close to hand is included.
The haunted piano and orchestral atmospherics of the opener home there(wound) give way to the hyperactive bouncing ball of the vast descent knot bind. song of absence plays out in ghostly keys slowly encased in metallic scrapes…
song of ache is an unexpected jolt where mayhem gives way to thrillingly moody interlocking synth patterns. tender ebbs rises out droning threads into acoustic guitar figures, builds into a thunderous epiphany.
By this point, several times, we’ve had to recheck what album is actually playing as we’ve been channelled through so many different zones, lost in a maze of beautifully rendered fragments.
Here again, this sense that different musical forms all exist in close proximity to each other, where a millimetre up or down may lead to something totally compatible but at the same time, completely alien, to its neighbour.
The layered droning of cbttb(attunement) leads towards the breathy near silence of song of seeking before more achingly beautiful guitar rolls by…The last near 30-minute span of the final two tracks, ascend thaw gush and i forgive you, i forgive me/trust that we are held(womb) delight in yet more high res sonic tetris.
In the final few minutes, rhythms again align into a sun dappled finale and there is a sense that you’ve just literally had your brain squeezed through hundreds of doorways, all worthy of repeat visits.
Oda’s work reminds us of David Tudor’s Rainforest, or Iannis Xenakis attempting mutant pop. At the heart of this music is a breath of fresh air approach, and some amazing software, creatively exploited to paint a world stuffed with impossible richness, detail and variety.
These albums have been powerfully felt here at OBLADADA, somehow acting like sound palettes presented in just one of an infinite number of possibilities. Music like this could easily become some cold automated flythrough of all the parameters but somehow a human warmth shines through.
Back To The Body simultaneously manages to feel like a cohesive suite, a mix, a compilation and sketchbook – all at the same time. Undoubtably, the overriding sense here is that whatever drove this music into being, the result as a listener is no less than a superb collection of familiar forms and creatively woven into completely new ones.
Back To The Body is out now on digital and cassette