Downtempo electronica aged like a fine wine.
Embarking on his third studio album, Tor has quietly been garnering fans. His style of blissed-out electronica sits equally well in the dance and the chill-out space. Viewed from a vaseline-smeared rose-tinted speaker, Tor’s new album ‘Oasis Sky’ is perfectly placed for sunny afternoons and quiet wanders. Bibio and Caribou will need to look over their shoulders.
The beauty of ‘Oasis Sky’ is how each track effortlessly flows into another. Tor takes from the 90’s club scene by using soft bleeps that pulsate melodically to form a base melody. Across the opening trio of tracks ‘City 66’, ‘Foxglove’ and ‘Riverline’ these bleeps change style but not their soft positioning in the mix. ‘Foxglove’ adds in emotional Lamb styled piano. ‘Riverline’ brings in heavier percussion to evoke a natural wooden vibe. It all points to a sound where the digital meets organic and the organic largely leads the way. It is a clever way to create music as the acoustic instruments can change from track to track and that’s where Tor excels.
The middle of the album touches on various zither and ethnic instrumentation but Tor doesn’t use them directly. ‘Inkeri’ takes zither twangs for little embellishments around a trip-hop beat and those gentle bleeps again. A Balkan styled choir chirps in and out but as is Tor’s style, you’ll rarely hear a full phrase. Tor chops them up so you get slices of the pie and they fade in and out softly. ‘Kanta’ takes the same premise and goes East with Asian chants and cathartic synth strings. The drums now have more of a taiko boom to them too which is a lovely touch. ‘Lens’ brings back those zithers and fragments them over trip-hop beats, flanging them and playing the trills back and forth like a kaleidoscope. Hypnotic is a word that springs to mind when I think of ‘Oasis Sky’ as a while and this track personifies it.
After the low dubs of ‘Lightraker’ which plays with glassy balafon styled percussion over deep bass lines. the guzheng appears with ‘Red Tide’. ‘Crossing’ plays with tape worn synths and big echoing bangs alongside harps and vocal snippets. As you can see, the whole album feels like a love letter to zithers and plucked instruments. Each track focuses on how Tor can make their elegance shine brightly and he does a stunning job. This comes full circle with the dreamy closer ‘Eleuthera’. Here, the electronica elements take a back seat and we get zithers, pianos and double bass step forward and work in harmony together. Throughout the album, each instrument has been separated. With their styles combined, they make an understated but profoundly beautiful outro to an ethereal and sweeping album.
Readers will know my love of zithers or plucked and tuned percussion already. Tor was preaching to the converted with the concept and soundscape of ‘Oasis Sky’. Still, he manages to balance the uplifting elegance and silent crying emotion of world infused electronica to perfection. This is the very definition of an album that sneaks up on you. I’ve had it on repeat for hours and still find it like a cocoon of sound to get lost in. Simply beautiful.
Recommended track: Foxglove
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