On their last album Everyone Into Position, Oceansize singer Mike Vennart admits the band made a small but significant concession in search of airplay, including more melodic material than they might do normally. Frames – with its clever, multi-dimensional title – seeks to redress the balance and let the band do their stuff untempered.
With so many of their contemporaries happy to sell out in search of a fast buck this is a refreshing move, as is the shift to the band’s own Superball label. At times the danger is they’ve gone too far the other way though, especially where choice of rhythmic meter is concerned. Most bands pick a straightforward four for their songs but not Oceansize, where eleven is commonplace (Commemorative T-Shirt), as is seven or five.
To their credit this sounds natural most of the time, the curiously stumbling Only Twin aside, as the band build a powerful wall of concrete sound. Most of the eight songs begin from nothing and gradually gather momentum, the palpable tension breaking in the middle but never fully subsiding as the music comes down from its high.
Lyrical contributions from Vennart seem fewer this time round, but the guitars speak volumes too. Instrumental track An Old Friend Of The Christies builds on a simple chorale-like statement to shake the rafters, while Trail Of Fire and Savant feature particularly impressive codas. Drummer Mark Herrin gets in on the act, too, with some heavy gunfire in the fills of Commemorative T-Shirt and some most effective stick work evident even in the underpinning rhythms.
Plucking a single release from this body of work would be difficult as the material is almost consciously anti-radio, as if the band are shunning any idea of limelight before it should appear. The record only works to its fullest if listened through in one long breath, and in that sense resembles Marillion‘s Brave, albeit without an obvious concept or story.
What’s clear is that Oceansize have reached a comfort zone in the sense that they can now do what they like – but as what they like doing involves complex riffing and fraut, intense guitar lines, there is never the sense of complacency or laurels being rested on.
A strong record for sure, but it will be interesting to see how the band develop now they’re self employed.