Ohal Acid Park

[Styles Upon Styles; 2016]

Styles: Baroque pop, “Wall of Sound,” acid house, landscape architecture
Others: Laurel Halo, Tunde Adebimpe, Brian Eno, Jenny Hval

Acid Park pulls up to the listener as from around a veiled corner and then suffuses our atmosphere with itself. Here, we watch time’s hologram obliterate us, melting perpetually into our past selves, the blooming loose ends of loss. This projection of a place you imagine where all your loved ones collect at the end of wanting, where “songs” and “things,” “words” and digitalia naively co-conspire in a thick mesh of flesh and wire and zeros hooked into ones, its constituent particles frozen in amber, imperceptibly glacial in a frieze of recombination. Baroque organ cycles swole with reverence resonate with synthesized constellia, abutting choruses that sound as if they’ve eclipsed a thousand reprises before they even appear. Eternity is the saddest, most beautiful place to stay, and Ohal’s recording methods short-circuit linear time: the percussion sounds on Acid Park were recorded initially to tape, then relayed and played back at varying speeds to summon portals of synchronic ephemera.

On “Set Go,” wall-of-sound girl group romantics vacillate with existential bargaining: “Honey, come/ Tender and travel to love” gives way to “Hold onto a day/ That’s gone away.” Life’s invisible spirit speaks to us through the people we love and ultimately slips our grasp: “I cannot hold you down.” The record subsequently plunges into its heartrendingly gorgeous title track: these strains of misguided reverence — the Baroque, naive pop, the fetishized — rejoin a mournful syrup, the plunging, stroboscopic kernel at the molten center of our long pop hymn. Even at its most earnest and plainspoken, Acid Park’s clashing tropes interpose a fallibility to regimented modes of expression, levying jarring synth-kitsch against sublime girl-pop confessional, or otherwise kitschy pop expression interrupts the meditative programmatic. This compositional gesture does not delegitimize any one mode of expression, but rather collapses the sounds into a porous, holographic topography: deadly earnest catharsis becomes indistinguishable from tongue-in-cheek deployment of cliché.

In structure, Acid Park resists tautology and logos, flaunts that eternal reprise, that dual (ir)reverence that endears us to our imperfect modes of expression. Those old Spector-arranged, ready-digested pop jams slip their violent contexts, the Acme walls of sound tip over, smash on impact and bleed into the open air, becoming only more beautiful in doing so, as the lyrics to “Acid Park” exorcise the brutality at the heart of the classically romantic: “Holding our arms down/ Anywhere man goes.” As in, I could hold you down, girl. Acid Park is vaulted, unreliable terrain for exorcising the language of domination, where overlapping temporal modes and interstitial genre referents destabilize the unwavering brutality of the contemporary info-stream. Certain movements on the record make it hard to tell where you are within it, whether you are listening to a literal rework of something you heard earlier or merely the embossed shadow of an eternal trauma, manifesting in Acid Park’s raw particulate.

Most of the record’s eight movements do not read as discrete “songs” — the exception being “Wintertime,” with its repetitive, minimalist requiem passage, relying solely on saturated organ chords and the manipulation of a few clipped vocal samples — as many of the tracks are made up of various passages that give way to inexplicable chorus sections, adorned with rather than driven by percussion. There’s something very Samsara about the affair as a whole, a mortal vitality to the cyclical reprises and decaying shimmer of the vocals that embodies a universal reservoir beyond the hackneyed compositional tropes in play. “Closer,” at a chasmic, yawning seven minutes, veers into Peaking Lights-esque dub territory, but instead of the vocals being buried like an instrument in the mix, here they are luminary and forceful, again obsessed with the luminous white machine of life’s great nebulae: “Closer than love/ Closer to time.” It’s the kind of sensory experience that envelops the listener beyond your direct experience of it, somehow becoming less familiar, more uncanny with every subsequent revisit. Parks don’t enshrine environment so much as they enshrine human activity within environment, and Acid Park’s voluminous expanses are a funhouse for hackneyed platonic forms, a crystalline hologram of decaying pasts slipping into blooming futures, through that meek, breathtakingly limited needle’s eye of right now.

Links: Ohal - Styles Upon Styles

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