ODAE :: If Things Had Memories, The Stories They’d Tell (Morning Hour)

Each track offers something of a carnival of textures, beats and downtempo segments strung around with vocal samples and snippets of conversation. Both as text and texture, If Things Had Memories… contains many stories in fragments, in hints and allusions.

ODAE :: If Things Had Memories, The Stories They'd Tell

What if things could speak to us? What if they had memories? These are the questions around which Ruari O’Brien’s If Things Had Memories, The Stories They’d Tell circulates. Not knowing what these objects should be, or are, our minds are left to wander amid the aural and sonic equivalents of “stuff”, to imagine at the materialities that O’Brien is attempting to bring to the fore. I found myself asking whether we were listening not so much to memories, as points in time, as to entire courses of life histories; for the tracks twist and shimmer, introducing and letting drop a number of subtle textures, loops and beats, exploring a range of atmospheres and climates before moving on. It can mean, at times, that each track does not return to a stable core, but rather reflects a series of different, interlinked environments. It can be an experience both surprising and jarring.

Each track offers something of a carnival of textures, beats and downtempo segments strung around with vocal samples and snippets of conversation. There are some moments of really fantastic drum sample and keys, such as in the opening of “Just,” where there is a real “crunchiness” to the beats and a sharp, resonant echoing which underpins it. In places, O’Brien can overextend these samples and layer them too densely, such that we lose touch with the track’s various threads, and the idea that these are stories told by a single, remembering “thing” falls away. A very interesting sequence, titled “Rosemary Stretch,” offers us a a shimmering band of synth and resonance that is not picked up and carried on in the album’s remainder—echoing a theme of presence and absence that seems to bind much of the album together. Using the common labels of “ambient” or “downtempo” doesn’t quite do this theme-oriented release justice. There is something more conversational and multi-sided going on here, a conversation between music and “things.”

Both as text and texture, the release contains many stories in fragments, in hints and allusions. For a young musician, it is a sign of a very promising direction for the future, as well as accomplishment here and now. For much of the track, O’Brien is extremely on point, perfectly calibrating a range of vocal samples, synth, and texture—threads of subtlety, snippets of other sounds, echoes and promises that head off in often unexpected directions, while occasionally compressing into satisfyingly complex and compressed sequences of resonance and beat, in a manner that is, appropriately, material, physical (such as the second track, “The Crunch Period”). In fact, considering that any object has lived so passively—a receptacle for human use and forgetting, it seems that O’Brien’s approach is the most appropriate to that form. The “thing” whose memories are of places, voices, actions and situations of which it has no frame of reference. It’s like trying to explain the color “yellow”. It’s of no surprise, then, that the musical voice of an object should eschew conventional melodies and frameworks, should speak in a dialect that only echoes our own, but does not copy it.

If Things Had Memories, The Stories They’d Tell is available on Morning Hour. [Bandcamp]

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1 Comment

  1. ODAE says:

    Thanks for writing this review! This was a great read; I really appreciate it!

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