Music

OMBRE: Believe You Me

OMBRE's Believe You Me is a most lovely palette cleanser that beckons to be experienced.


OMBRE

Believe You Me

Label: Asthmatic Kitty
US Release Date: 2012-08-21
UK Release Date: 2012-08-21
Amazon
iTunes

There was a time, not long ago, when music like this was virtually impossible to find outside of a college radio station. Needless to say, it’s a new world, and accessible experiments abound. OMBRE combines the psychedelic Latin folk of Helado Hegro (aka Roberto Lange) with the celestial vocals of Julianna Barwick. The result is spacious electronic dream-pop that could easily act as a soundtrack to contemplating the universe. A rich wall of ambience is invoked and sustained over the course of ten tracks that last just over 35 minutes.

The richness of this EP comes not so much from the complexity of its sonic layers, but from the way the layers are arranged. It is well balanced and sensitive. This is due, in part, to the unique way in which these two artist retain their individuality while contributing to a broader aesthetic. Their melded language creates a space that, in some ways, reaches beyond their individual work as solo artists.

From the opening strains of “Noche Brilla”, the combined musical personalities of Julianna Barwick and Roberto Lange work together in a yin yang type relationship. Trumpets reminiscent of Bitches Brew-era Miles Davis are set against cascading harp arpeggios. The heavenly strains of the harp are gentle and reassuring. The trumpet is a call to active contemplation, the place where transcendence meets the mundane, beckoning beyond the ordinary in a gentle way. Perhaps this is religious music? Whatever it is, it is searching and unresolved, exactly as one might expect it to be given the track record of these two artists.

The architecture of Believe You Me takes the form of a sacred space, setting the listener loose to wander on a rainy mid-day afternoon. Gloomy light pierces through the stained glass, as something, or someone, calls through Julianna Barwick’s voice. She is an angel who is adept at electronically manipulating her vocals, inviting the listener to explore a soundscape; and Roberto Lange’s grounded instrumentation is the tether that keeps her from flying away. His guitar tones are pure and unassuming on tracks like “Weight Those Words” and “Noche Brille Pt. 2”, and his use of percussion on “Tormentas” and “Cara Falsa” balance Barwick’s reverb-drenched vocals. The music morphs into a soundtrack for a dystopian gothic western when these elements effectively mix with Julianna Barwick’s trademark sound. Not all of the tracks find such a refreshing mix of influences, but Believe You Me still fits nicely into the Asthmatic Kitty catalogue as a worthy experiment that does justice to the reputation of the label. One can even hear the influence of Sufjan Stevens’ electronic pallette on “Cara Falsa” and piano delay on “Sense”. The pilgrimage is cut short at just over 35 minutes, the juxtaposition of the sacred and ordinary climaxing on the ninth track “Pausa Primera”. A full chorus of Julianna Barwick vocals call like sirens floating above the sounds of children in a playground.

Experimental ambience is a risk that can easily drown in coma inducing over-indulgence. Believe You Me is not that. It is subtle, non-sentimental, and it forgoes anthemic cheese. A pleasant escape that certainly deserves a good pair of headphones. The kind of reflection and experience that it offers may even tempt some to wade into deeper streams of modern classical Minimalism, a gateway drug into masterpieces like Morton Feldman’s Rothko Chapel, or Arvo Part’s Fratres. These are the strengths of an experiment like this. The weakness is that only time will tell if this particular musical fashion has any staying power, or if it slowly develops into a hipster version of the New Age genre, something that will be heard in a dentist office ten years from now. Who knows, maybe a future SNL skit featuring an elderly Christopher Walken will contain the punchline, “More reverb!,” in lieu of “More cowbell!”

Regardless of what the future holds, the art of Julianna Barwick and Roberto Lange hits upon a relevant zeitgeist. The cultural significance of an album like this is that it asks, “Is anybody out there?” We certain live in a time when echoing reverb is more appropriate to the cultural climate than a self assured rim shot. Does the space created by the reverb represent emptiness or openness? The answer is left up to the interpretation of the listener. Whatever the conclusion, Believe You Me is a most lovely palette cleanser that beckons not to be overly explained. It is about the search for transcendence that takes place in the mundane. Of course, I could be wrong.

8

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less
Culture

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less
Books

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image