A glance at the surreal artwork that adorns When Plants Turn into Stones, a featureless man in shadow made up of twisting branches and rugged bark, reveals much about O’s patient and monolithic approach to music. It is also representative of their own personal enamour with nature as a source of inspiration and tranquility, a sub-topic and probable coping mechanism for their all-consuming puzzlement toward the ultimate role of man and the inevitability of demise.
This examination of our life cycle is the concept that glues the record together, expressed as a series of multi-instrumental rise-and-fall soundscapes that act as audible accompaniments to the arduous and futile endeavor of our nameless hero. In many ways it is a ‘slow-burner’ because of this – you’ll spend more time rummaging around in the dark undergrowth than you will scaling mountains – but I suppose this is indicative of life in general. The rare moments of glorious expanse are like sparks of flame from the rubbing together of shards of discarded flint; genuinely moving moments of proud simplicity amongst the grind.
But unlike most apex-hunting post-rockers, the subtlety of the arching build-ups are where O truly excel, traversing the muddy terrain with a rich variety of sounds and samples that span everything from the chirping of early-morning birds to low, droning organs. If you’ll indulge me, consider ‘East Hastings’ as a washed-away and distant place in time, then imagine being a modern day observer returning to survey the damage. That’s O you’ll hear as you wander the empty streets, numbly providing the soundtrack to your discoveries, carefully juggling a myriad of sinewy guitars, marching-band percussion and seemingly aimless ambience to frame your reflection.
In a recent interview, the band expressed that they “see [themselves] more as machines producing the music than [as] individual artists”, and given the blurred-out faces and proud display of their vast range of musical equipment on the album’s promotional image (one inspired by Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma), it is clear that they genuinely believe it. The circular thematics that they strive for are reached because they are able to accept how small they are in relation to the topics they are trying to comprehend, whilst the shunning of hubris is the humility that binds the album’s concept and keeps it honest to the touch. And, when you’re up against certain mortality, that’s all you can really hope for.
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