Thursday 19 April 2018

Kings of Waterford declare independence

O Emperor have self-released their latest album.
O Emperor have self-released their latest album.
John Meagher

John Meagher

Big release of the week: O Emperor Vitreous (Big Skin Records) 4 STARS

There has been no shortage of over-long, bloated albums this year, several of which have clocked in around the 70-minute mark.

Justin Timberlake's comeback album, The 20-20 Experience, for instance, would surely have benefited by having up to 20 minutes pared here and there.

It's something of a refreshing change, then, to be confronted with an album that's just over 29 minutes long – although some might feel they are being short-changed by such a brief document.

When, they might reasonably argue, does an EP end and an album begin?

Vitreous is the second album from the Waterford band, O Emperor, and its snappy run-time serves to accentuate the quintet's idiosyncratic and inventive music.

It's a very different album from their well-received, Choice prize-nominated debut Hither Tither. That album's pastoral sound has large been eschewed in favour of 1960s psychedelia, late Beatles ecleticism and the sort of experimental indie-folk of a contemporary outfit like Brooklyn's finest, Grizzly Bear.

Grandmother Mountain fuses all three of the above touchstones in quietly spectacular fashion and when strings appear towards the end, they feel like a vital part of the song and not a cobbled-on afterthought.

The sheer variety of influences and styles present makes Vitreous an absorbing listen, whether it's the infectious power pop of lead single Holy Fool, the gorgeously textured closing track This is It, or the understated majesty of Minuet.

The album was recorded in their own self-built Cork studio, was self-produced, and is being released on their own label (after parting company with a major, Universal).

They have taken control back – and, coincidentally or not, their music feels less in thrall to its influences than before.

Where they go next is anyone's guess, but you'll want to be with them for the journey.

KEY TRACKS Grandmother Mountain; This is It; Holy Fool

Irish Independent

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