Oscillation by Oh HiroshimaRelease date: July 26, 2019
Label: Napalm Records
Moments of clarity. Misty-eyed reminiscences. An overwhelming feeling of total euphoria. Infinite sadness. Four reasons why we are all obsessed with post rock. We are all addicts, chasing our next hit.
At Dunk! Festival towards the end of May, in a lovely Flanders field and surrounded by like-minded individuals from all over the world, I had multiple epiphanies, during sets by bands that I love, all-consumed by their stunning, towering, overwhelming crescendos of aesthetic noise and ferocious power. Silent Whale Becomes A Dream reduced me to tears of I don’t know quite what on at least four separate occasions. My brother, who lives in New Zealand and who I see once a year at this festival, had a similar, life-questioning experience. What is it about this music that makes it so awakening? Maybe the absence of words and a sense of place? Perhaps the surging, vivid nature of the music and the subsequent rousing of the senses? In fact, I don’t need to understand it. Scrub that. Why would I want to bind it to the earth when I can fly among the stars?
Very often, these things occur in the live environment. A loud and quality PA system, the collective experience, the sheer, visceral thrill of art in the flesh, this is the stuff of hugs and tears and unbridled joy. Very occasionally, this same sensory overload can happen through a pair of headphones at home. Or driving up the M5 on a Saturday afternoon. And when it happens, I for one immediately want to tell the world about what I have just lived through, and the extraordinary talent of the perpetrators. Everyone must hear, and everyone must understand!
Oh Hiroshima did this. The second track from Oscillation, the new album, did this. ‘A Handful Of Dust’ it is called, and it has a mournful key-based introduction, and gradually builds, as of course you would expect, before eventually, entrancingly exploding into a sonic ascension of grace and power that absolutely takes my breath away, time and time again, every time I hear it. The rest of the album could be made up of Johnny Hates Jazz covers. If I hear a better crescendo released this year, I will possibly erupt myself.
Anyway, this three-piece from Kristinehamn, Sweden, has been a going concern since 2007. They didn’t release their well-received debut album, Resistance Is Futile, until 2012, and following two EP releases. There followed the equally popular second long-player In Silence We Yearn in 2015, and four long years have passed, with Leif Eliasson, a founding member and guitarist, departing the band before the release of this new album, and having not been replaced up to this point.
Oh Hiroshima sit somewhere between the glacial splendour of fellow Swedes EF and the incendiary brawn of Caspian. A tantalising concoction, I think you will agree, and Oscillation’s opening track ‘Neu’ will not leave you unaware of this, if you are familiar with either. The guitars smoulder and crackle into darker life, accompanied by brooding electronics and a taut, unforgiving backline. If you are well-versed in post rock but not in this band, then the arrival of Jakob Hemstrom’s vocal at the 2:20 mark may take you a little by surprise. The singing is clean, and of a style which gives Oh Hiroshima’s music even greater depth and rapturous allure, as it perfectly matches the imposing sonic melancholy of the track, and throughout the record.
The pace picks up with ‘Simulacra’, beginning with an urgent riff and dazzling atmospherics that certainly wouldn’t sound out of place on God is an Astronaut’s magnificent All Is Violent, All is Bright album, before a breakdown and a becalmed, reflective outro. ‘Moderate Spectre’ follows, one of no fewer than 3 tracks released in advance from the album. Hemstrom’s vocals really are front and centre this time, as he sings of ghosts and creatures in the “shimmering unknown”, as a glistening guitar line and animated accompaniment provide the greatest sense of light and hope on the record.
‘Darkroom Aesthetics’ is very well-named, and has the same cut-glass elegance and urgent yet consummate delivery as bands like Lost in Kiev and The End of the Ocean, while ‘In Solar’ is simply stunning, as Magnus Lindberg of Cult of Luna’s mastering really comes into its own here, with mournful cello intertwining gorgeously alongside lustrous guitar for another one of those “I think I might have something in my eye” moments.
The record ends with the ten-minute ‘Molnet’, which begins with the foreboding atmospherics that are a constantly effective feature on the album, and jackhammer percussion. Slowly the lead guitar begins to build in volume and intensity, before at the four-minute mark the pedals are floored, and all merry hell starts to be unleashed. The break comes quickly, however, before it all builds back up again for what would have been a blistering conclusion, but it is a forever becalmed Hemstrom with the final words – “Lose what you know. Autumn reset. Transcend these words. Enter solace”. Seems to me like he’s referring to your average parent’s trials and tribulations during the school summer holidays, but that interpretation is probably more to do with where I’m at currently (when does it end please?!).
Oh Hiroshima has once again demonstrated fantastic ability to meld captivating, heart-rending melody with epic, fulminating fervency, and created a record in Oscillation that will undoubtedly be absolutely sensational live. Hopefully they have their eyes on an overdue visit to that lovely Flanders field in May next year…please.