Emotiveness in music is a nice thing but without concept, philosophy and underlying imagination seems empty and untrue to the idea of art as an expression of one’s emotions. Olan Mill, duo consisting of Alex Smalley and Svitlana Samoylenko, have a perfect vision of how to deal with emotions, the ways to evolve them in the most suitable way and, above all, what those sentiments stand for. On their debut album ‘Pine’ duo worked with space as a dimensional object to be filled with the sound of echoing strings and piano. Instead of trying for a bigger sound or greater space, the pair’s second full-length ‘Paths’ (Facture) is rather focused on the images and tones linked to journey as a concept of exploring the world around. Where ‘Pine’ was a blank, abstract surface, or an empty dome, ‘Paths’ is an imaginable world that surrounds us. It might be bit idealized and bit personalized, but still thinkable and graspable.
From the sonic perspective, ‘Paths’ demonstrates a beauty of simplicity. The sound is open, vastly spreading across the entire world and waiting for an embrace. It’s so simple: murmurs of piano with highly-set melodies as if touching the skies with your own hand in ‘Springs’ or its contrasting counterparts ‘Bleu Polar’ and ‘Rube’ which turns the idea upside down and focuses all its attention down to earth. The micro-life in meadows, brooks and woods is captured in the most calming and universal way as if Olan Mill were displaying the entire life in a single picture. Once it’s a clear, azure sky, then emerald life-full ground.
From the sun through mist Paths leads its way to darkness in ‘On Waiting.’ Dark vibrations with lush and unsettling drones set the tone for Angelo Badalamenti-like synths to fully contain the glory of a night walk through the seemingly sleeping nature. Olan Mill suggest that not everything sleeps and few dangers are still awake, waiting for their prey. Overall, it’s simple touch of low echoes of organ (possibly) against few dissonances in the violins’ melody coming over again.
In one moment the recipe of lushness and repetitiveness is too predictable. It’s the case of ‘Knew Bold’ which is too reminiscent of the opening on ‘Paths’ and imitate the conciseness present on ‘Pine.’ With an austere melody and general atmosphere of mist and fog ‘Knew Bold’ doesn’t add any new dimension to the journey took on ‘Paths’ and serves as a two minutes long bridge between the darkness and an anticipated sunset. First the setting sun is suggested in ‘Rube’ and fully evolved in the most abstract and most shiny ‘On Leaving’ overflowing with brightness and clarity. As a whole ‘Paths’ is a simple journey and articulated via words maybe too banal but the richness of the sound and believable atmospheres demonstrate the mastery of Smalley and Samoylenko in inducing images of a more charming and idealized world.
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