This is the debut album from Auckland musician, Oliver Birch, although older versions of many of the songs contained within have already been made available as singles. When the album started with the lengthy keyboard chords and feedback intro I thought it would fall into krautrock, but instead it quickly changed into a psychedelic experimental art rock number with emotionally charged vocals and an outright refusal to conform to any expectations. In many ways this is totally different to the rest of the album, yet it also fits right in as this experimental pop continues all the way through, albeit in different styles. While Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is an obvious reference, so are the likes of David Bowie, Peter Gabriel, Jonathan Richman, David Byrne and others who like to push the envelope.
The album is multi-layered, and the use of brass is inspired, while the guitar can be fractured, distorted, fuzzed, clear or acoustic and keyboards can be quite strange or just piano. Not all instruments are played at the same time, as they move in and out as the need arises, just with the vocals normally front and centre. It is not an easy listening album in anyway shape or form, yet the more it is played the more the listener starts to get inside the mind of Oliver and what he is attempting to achieve. It is like listening to a musical version of Dali, using a wide palette to create images which in some ways are recognisable, except they have melted and are not in their usual forms. When I first played this, I did not enjoy it a great deal, yet by the time I had finished listening to it all the way through I had quite a different opinion, and when I went through it again for the second time my views had changed considerably. It is music which will never sit comfortably on the radio, and will always be outside the mainstream view, but that is certainly not always a bad thing in my opinion.
The album takes time to understand and therefore enjoy, but for those who want their music to take a path less travelled, then this could well be of interest. That each song is quite independent of each other while staying closely related is also interesting. Given there is so much going on I think it is unlikely that Oliver will be able to form a band to play this live, but with this album it is something which does benefit from reflection in a quiet environment with little to disturb the listener.
6/10 by Kev Rowland