What does Ô Lake sound like?
Modern neoclassical compositions that score the cinematic introspective moments of life.
The review of Ô Lake – Still
Sylvain Texier has been making neoclassical music as Ô Lake for a few years now and each release takes on a slightly different slant. With ‘Still’, Ô Lake explores more creative electronica elements in his compositions. Whilst the piano and a string quartet are still the main staples for these moments of reflection and wonderment, there are a lot of hidden layers of complexity in the mix that you won’t pick up the first time around with ease.
It’s that level of maturity in the subtle complexities of the music that makes Ô Lake’s album such a joy to revisit. On the opening track ‘Everest’, the strings are smudged like watercolours and evocative of big emotional swells waiting to be born into life. The pianos layer over multiple layers of twinkling synths and electric pianos that also start blurring into a shimmering waterfall of sound too. The song imbues romance and sweeping emotion without ever leaning into the classical tropes of big, bold and bombastic. The flip side of this is that ‘Night Moves’ has an utterly beautiful piano riff that has a tiny tippy-toe glitch in. It’s so dainty and delicate that you’ll be shocked to hear soaring strings and dramatic thunderous drums joining the track towards the end. Songs on ‘Still’ don’t always take you where you expect and that’s a win every time.
After the reflective longing of the intimately recorded piano of ‘Innocence’, we hit the cinematic ‘Avalanche’. This is Ô Lake embracing technology in full swing with bold synth melodies, surging arpeggios of rubbery keyboards and cataclysmic drumstick percussion that reminds me of taiko drums. It’s Ô Lake at his most cinematic and it is bold with feeling. From that surge of energy, we move towards a sombre section of music. ‘December 30th’ is a regal string arrangement with some beautiful violin, cello and alto work. Whilst the strings, and towards the end the piano, led the way melodically, a deep rumbling room noise starts to seep into the track. It gives the piece an eerie foreboding, which leads onto ‘Funeral’, a track dedicated to Sylvain’s father. Whereas the piano on ‘Innocence’ evoked a romantic longing, this track is steeped in melancholy. Beautifully understated and keeping things simple, the message and feeling of love and loss cut through the speakers clearly.
In an album full of moments that make you think, ‘Here’ is a track that stands out. It moves instruments back and forth in the mix creatively. For the first half, the drums sound like distant rain as they are that far back in the mix. Then they burst forward as the track switches from analogue to digital and keyboards take over. It feels like the entire album is distilled into a single track. Removing all the digital extras, ‘Distance’ feels like quintessential Ô Lake. Rolling piano, sweeping strings and an introspective and thoughtful mood. It also feels like Sylvain shedding skin in a way before the uplifting finale of ‘Motions’. Here we have confident, calming downtempo drums, sumptuous strings, ringing piano and swirling synths in full bloom. The whole track becomes a wash of aural sounds as if the music itself is a blur of motion after spending the last half hour being in moments of stillness.
The final two minutes of the album leave the listener with a bold tape drone akin to soft white noise. I can’t quite decide if that’s because Ô Lake has moved on and left us in his wake or if it’s a comment on it being ok to be left in stillness. Either way (or none of them entirely), each track beautifully depicts specific moments in time. They sound like crystalline memories that Ô Lake would love us to return to time and time again. With such memorable melodies, beautiful production and some clever technical trickery, it will be easy to. This is a modern classical album designed to score new moments for the listener. It’s like having a collection of songs to score your own introspective movie to. Cinematic yet personal. Ô Lake makes it work fantastically.
Recommended track: Avalanche
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