Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Album review - O Emperor 'Hither Thither'

O Emperor
‘Hither Thither’
NOT MANY Irish bands get two cracks at the whip when recording their debut album. But then, there are not many Irish bands around as good as Waterford five piece O Emperor, fewer still who have produced a debut album as incredibly confident and assured as this.
Boasting a deeply layered sound, mature instrumentation - ringing guitars, shimmering, lush soundscapes and delicate pianos - and songs that namecheck influences as diverse as Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Midlake, The Band and Neil Young; simply put, this is an astonishing piece of work from such a young band.
Holed up in in a cottage over a period of six months, the fledgling band - all of whom are schoolfriends and went to college together in Cork - recorded their album by their own endeavour, but then wisely allowed an early EP and rapturously received live performances to allow word to spread. As a result, O Emperor were picked up by Universal and decided to go back into the studio to re-record the album over a rapidly quick period, recording new songs and allowing the older ones to develop into fully fledged adults.
The results are stunning.
The soft-core, Radiohead-bass-chug of opener Don Quixote is an immediate eye-opener, vocalist Paul Savage allowing his voice to descend into a Thom Yorke sneer, while the guitars scream in the background.
The unexpectedly delicate piano-based rhythm of the subtle Sedalia is equally as impressive, the band mixing a dash of Syd Barret with more quaint English 1970s folk-rock.
Intertwining three part - at times five-part - vocal harmonies on certain songs, most notably the excellent single Don’t Mind Me, O Emperor effortlessly achieve heights no other Irish band has hit in recent times.
The weirdly spine-tingling and ghostly reverb of the Echo and the Bunnymen influenced Heisenberg is another highlight, as is the simple yet effective Catch-22.
There might not be enough upbeat moments on this album for many listeners, but it is a stunning piece of work, and one which loudly hints at further riches to come from this band.

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