Oversleep Excuse: Slowly Better (album)

Slowly Better

CD, Ricco Label, 2014

Often classified under the twin labels of post-rock and electronica, Oversleep Excuse are an odd fit for their assigned category, with their songs tending to be relatively pop in their structure and the band producing most of their sounds live. With that in mind, this full length album and the band’s first on a “proper” label

Opening track and lead promotional video Slowly Better (which I wrote about last month) provides better preparation for what to expect with its insistent lead piano, shuffling drums and steel drum interludes. On songs like It’s Alright you can hear a bit more of where the electronica references are coming from, although the skittering beats and Mice Parade-esque layers of sound are still by and large being created by the band live and in many cases acoustically. It perhaps says something of the extent to which electronic music has sought to recreate the warmth of acoustic sounds that genuine acoustickery like this finds itself dragged back into the electronic category. In any case, what makes Oversleep Excuse hard to categorise for labels and record shops needn’t concern those of us enjoying it, and it rewards the listener with 45 minutes of placid, summery pop, led by chiming, cascading guitar and steel drum courtesy of vocalist Matthew Guay and underpinned by Adam Gyenes’ versatile, slippery drumming.

The album shows a lot of diversity over its fourteen tracks, with the band using those core elements providing a consistent mood but employing them in intelligent and varied ways. Again, a lot of the credit here has to go to Gyenes’ drumming and Guay’s multi-instrumental talents, but Oversleep Excuse are an ensemble and a look at the liner notes (or the video for Oyu no Hana for that matter) reveals a plethora of instrument swapping (keyboard player Mami Matsuzaka is a supremely skilled drummer in her own right, while Gyenes is an excellent guitarist), while bassist Kazumoto Shoji is a quietly remarkable background presence throughout.

Given how long Oversleep Excuse have been around, it feels strange to be calling Slowly Better a debut, and all that time spent playing together both live and in the studio shows in the confidence and musical richness on display. A highlight of the year so far and coming just in time for the height of summer, its release is perfectly timed.

EDIT: Adam from Oversleep Excuse pointed out to me yesterday that it was Matsuzaka who played drums on most of the album while he himself primarily played guitar. Again, this really reinforces the extent to which the members chop and change instruments (everyone except Shoji has a go on drums at some point in the album).

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3 Comments

Filed under Albums, Reviews

3 responses to “Oversleep Excuse: Slowly Better (album)

  1. This band is doing something very interesting with the steel drum. I noticed it before on the “Slowly Better” video, and the video for Oyu no Hana helps bring it out. I can see the percussionist in both cases making strikes on the steel drum; that’s a percussion instrument with a transient spike at the beginning of the sound that should be clearly audible. So where are all those mallet strikes in the audio track?? Look at all those strikes at 1:20 and 1:23, but the sound we hear is almost a sustained continuous chord. Several ways to get at that: soft mallets, hard limiter to bring the spikes down to the level of the sustained tone, lots of reverb, mix the steel drum under the other instruments. This de-spiked steel drum becomes a textural instrument, providing a wash of sustained sound, that greatly contributes to the otherworldly, ethereal sound of the band. Excellent sound engineering, great idea.

    • Zoda

      This texture actually reminds me of the hangs played with soft mallets on Portico Quartet tracks.

      Great album overall, seduced by the two videos I bought it and I’m very happy with that. Thanks for this review !

  2. Pingback: Top 20 Releases of 2014: No.11 – Oversleep Excuse – Slowly Better | Clear And Refreshing

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