The world would be a better place if more bands followed the same path as Oceansize. I’m not talking about aping the majestic, autumnal post-rock pomp that the Manchester-based quintet has conquered over the past dozen years. I’m talking about building a career on foundations of substance and passion, developing a sound whilst retaining an identity. This is why Self Preserved While the Bodies Float Up is possibly their best album yet.
When they burst onto the scene with debut LP Effloresce in 2003, everyone was talking about their sound: it caressed the ears with luxurious bombast as much as it vanquished silences with razor-sharp shards of thunderous catharsis. Seven years later they are still the band music lovers adore, but the edges of their sonic spectrum have stretched. There is more restraint, but also there is more emphasis: if SPWTBFU is Oceansize’s heaviest album, it’s quite clearly also their most diverse.
Their music has certainly progressed, but so has their approach. Whereas in the past the band would use every last second available on a compact disc, SPWTBFU comes in at just over 50 minutes. Consequently, the songs are punchier, quicker to the point and, interestingly, more accessible. Opener Part Cardiac subtly provides the album title amongst Mike Vennart’s menacing opening riffs and howls, then the energetic It’s My Tail and I’ll Chase It If I Want To brings tremendous vitality back before the album closes. The crashing guitars in Build Us a Rocket Then… fly with the glorious intent that infiltrates the whole album.
The two lengthier tracks on the album, Oscar Acceptance Speech and Silent/Transparent, provide respite and familiarity. The piano-led former ticks along gradually and the latter builds more traditionally into a classic crashing crescendo, but then there’s that increased diversity that Oceansize have found. Amongst the crushing riffs, songs like A Penny’s Weight and Ransoms wander along harmlessly but brilliantly. Then there is Pine: with its lilting beauty gently padding along, Vennart murmurs sensitive sweet everythings atop a twinkling soundscape that explodes into a gorgeous, shimmering, string-laden climax. It’s truly spectacular and as it appears toward the end of SPWTBFU, you realise that this album has absolutely everything. This really is Oceansize at their most sumptuous, essential best.
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