Oak is a Norwegian art rock band that has recently released an album titled “Lighthouse” via Apollon Records. After several reviews for artists that I was relatively unaware of, I can safely say that Oak is a superb band. Having said that, does Lighthouse live up to the standard that I, and many others, have come to expect?
The band comprises of four members members, Simen Valldal Johannessen, Sigbjørn Reiakvam, Øystein Sootholtet, and Ole Michael Bjørndal.
The music of Oak is certainly in an area of its own although it does have tendrils that reach out into many different styles, including ethereal, flowing, spacey (a la Porcupine Tree), progressive, ambient, cinematic and even touching on the psychedelic. This album, Lighthouse, conjures up magnificent, almost sparse, soundscapes which build from a subdued start into walls of sound before receding back into sparseness again. So without continuing to tease the reader, what did this reviewer make of the new album?
The highlights after several listens include “Perceiving Red,” “Munich,” “The Sea,” and “Lighthouse,” although it was indeed a very hard choice to decide between all the tracks.
The opening track to Afterthoughts is a short instrumental titled “Prelude,” which is followed by “Home.” This piece sets the scene with a guitar gently strumming. This gentle, almost ethereal, sound continues and then slowly builds with soft piano. The drums, bass and guitar continue to intensify, almost overpowering vocals and then the track is stripped bare again leaving only the sparse drums and cymbals which are then joined by that superb, haunting piano melody. The track settles back into the initial motif with the instruments again intensifying the sound. A stunning and very atmospheric start to the album, and sets the listener up for a musical voyage through the remaining tracks.
“Perceiving Red” (5:44) has some superbly played beautiful piano, backed by the softest of vocals and a guitar which soars over everything else. Later on the drums add to the atmosphere. This track simply drips with emotion, from the instrumentation to the vocals, it is a stunning piece of work, gently changing direction and easing the listener along. do you become in the track that all sense of time simply disappears.
“The Sea” (4:53) enters the fray with a gentle, almost meandering piano passage, soon joined by crisp but unobtrusive drumming and floating effects. These are soon joined by vocals, forming an amazingly atmospheric track. The keyboards form a sort of “surround sound” to the track, wrapping everything else in. This must be the ultimate emotion soundscape on the album, with that melancholic vibe so stunningly fusing with the vocals and painting the almost perfect aural experience.
You will gather that this reviewer was well impressed with Lighthouse, but it does take a few plays before you realize that you are listening to a simply stunning album. Some may describe this work as “minimalist” but this is far from being correct as the band of musicians move effortlessly between sparseness to walls of sound and back. Set aside the 50 minutes required to hear this album from start to finish and immerse yourself in an experience. I think that it almost goes without saying that Lighthouse gets the special “One To Buy” sticker on the front, and indeed also gets a “This Experience Will Last Forever” sticker just below it.
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5 thoughts on “Review: Oak – Lighthouse”
Great review, as always, Nick. I just checked out the previews for this on iTunes, and I had to have it. I’m looking forward to delving into this. Thanks so much for turning me on to a great new band!
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I have been a prog / prog-related fan for over 30 years. My views on this album are BIG. It’s the best album I heard in 2016. It’s the best debut album I have ever heard. And it’s in my all time top 10. This album came out of nowhere and really hit me. There is something magical about it, but I can’t explain why…but I guess that’s down to the magic within the music. Truly amazing.
I’m really late to this party, but wanted to say, Nick, that I read this review a few months and then, about a week ago, began listening to this album. It really is exceptional. And you are spot on: it takes a few listens to appreciate just how good this is. Thanks!
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