O Emperor – Vitreous
When you first hit play on Vitreous, the second album from Irish alt-rock outfit O Emperor, the sparse piano and sturdy but placid vocals don’t immediately strike you as particularly ambitious. But give opening track Grandmother Mountain a minute (literally) and you’ll soon realise that Vitreous is a rich exploration of the character found in predecessors and peers.
Frontman Paul Savage cites a wide range of influences when it came to crafting Vitreous – from the synth-pop of late 70s Kraftwerk and early 80s Bowie to the classic rhythms of Chic and ambiance of Brian Eno, along with the more modern psychedelic fuzz of MGMT and Tame Impala. Drawing from such a diverse selection of material meant the UK five-piece ran the risk of clumsily stitching together a patchwork of loose ends. Fortunately O Emperor prove quite the tailors, weaving together a fine fabric of textured sounds.
Whitener (Part 1) is a fine example of this. The track slyly transitions from soothing synth to flamboyant guitar, accentuated by a warm glow. This current of velvet snugness flows through much of Vitreous, with the soft production meaning many of the songs would be right at home on a 70s compilation record. This isn’t to say that Vitreous is without oomph. Single Holy Fool picks up the pace, while it’s not hard to imagine Contact shifting a large crowd up and down on the spot in a live setting.
If O Emperor’s aim with Vitreous was to shed any folk revivalist association they’d earned, rightly or wrongly, after the release of 2010 debut Hither Thither, then mission accomplished – but long-standing fans should not despair. The roots of O Emperor’s music are still intact; it’s only that more roots have been exposed as the band continues to branch out.
Vitreous is released on 19th August 2013.
Watch the video for Vitreous here: