Opdot is the moniker of Tim Laverack and Gavin Kirtley; the former is a classically trained pianist whilst the latter is a bass player. Both are fascinated by electronic production and combining it with acoustic instrumentation. Having already played together in an indie band called Little Me, Opus One sees them deviate in the opposite direction – ambient music, classical and minimal techno are just some of their influences.
All 10 tracks are numberd from one to 10 and only four of them are given specific titles (Suspire, Lament, Serenade and Obnubilate). This is possibly to ensure that the listener’s expectations aren’t influenced by a key word or phrase, but after repeated listens it gets tricky to differentiate them, given how samey it all ends up being.
To illustrate the point, take the album’s standout. No. 5 starts with machine-like clunks and then begins its subtle build – synths get progressively more sweeping and powerful, a looping bassline appears from nothing and then all of a sudden the beat transforms and the piece becomes more driven and cinematic. Towards the ending, a flourish of violin sneaks into the mix to add to the drama.
The problem is that most of the tracks rely on the same formula to achieve the desired results; that formula being: start off slowly, change tack after a couple of minutes and a grand finish. As such, this means that it doesn’t take long to get bored, especially when it doesn’t feel as if they’re changing up in any way.
There’s also no sense of immediacy or power behind the textures that Lavareck and Kirtley construct. There’s no denying that some of the layers are intriguing but there’s nothing that can easily grab your attention. At its worst, it comes across as background music. This could have been remedied with a bit more imagination when it came to the arrangements.
However, it’s worth stressing that the elements that do work are interesting nonetheless. No. 7 splutters out of the gates and, over the course of its duration, notes tumble and strings ascend and sparkle. No. 8 gathers a gentle kind of momentum with stray sound effects to make it come across as a lost cut from some low-budget 1970s sci-fi film. No. 9 is glitchy and it takes its time to boil over but, when it does, the results are satisfactory.
Opus One is a cautious debut that promises so much but falls flat. Taken in isolation, there are things to admire and appreciate about the way that Opdot go about their business but it feels so clinical and precise to the point where it’s difficult to love. There’s plenty of room for improvement before Opus Two.