For Oceansize, 2004 has been quite a delightful year. The band saw the re-release of their debut full-length, Effloresce, here in the US as well as a mini-tour that followed. They were able to conquer our fair country despite the geographical distance from their home. And with the most recent release of their new EP, Music for Nurses, they are poised to continue their domination.
It doesn't take long to realize that Oceansize hasn't lost a step. "One Out of None" starts things off with the fast-paced drumming of Mark Heron and is quickly joined by speeding down tuned guitars. The fusion of these sounds is reminiscent of the alternative rock/industrial vibe the Smashing Pumpkins had on Machina. But the song does phase through more melodic moments, which are accentuated by vocalist Mike Vennart's sweet melodies, consistent with the song structuring that was used on Effloresce.. As the song proceeds, it flows through soft and heavy sequences, the latter of which are heightened by the coarse screams of guitarist/vocalist Steve Durose. In the end the song concludes in a wall of sound provided by consistent double bass and heavily distorted guitars.
The opening of "Paper Champion" acts as an interlude as the bass playing of Jon Ellis is joined by only the subdued tones of faint effects and turntables in the background. The attentive percussion of Heron and Vennart's harmonies steer the course through the winding trail of oddly placed distorted guitars until we come to a proverbial clearing. It is in this particular section that the band puts on an impressive display of original sounding guitars. These guitars, that most resemble the post-rock variety, play in a repeating sequence several times over while the drumming continues throughout. However, the drumming and the vocals are lowered below the guitar playing, which definitely struck me as a unique mixing technique. The sequence repeats until there is a brief pause of silence, which cues the arrival of distortion heavy guitars partnered with a fantastic solo to fuel the intensity for the closing moments of the song.
"Drag the 'Na" is a very ambient instrumental interlude. Unlike the interludes on Oceansize's previous full-length, here there is nothing more than the sound of soft organ playing. As the soothing tones rise and fade, they slowly fade seamlessly into the next track "Dead Dogs an' All Sorts." The beginning of this song uses the preceding organ tone, but adds very attentive drumming and sweet guitars that remind me of the tamer ...Trail of Dead material. Vennart's vocals are very soft, almost whispered phrases, moving with along with the drumming. With use of constant brushes of the cymbals and elevating drumming, the pace begins to quicken. And as the drumming speeds up, so do the guitars and bass playing. By the time we reach the end of the song, the drumming is full throttle and the guitars suggest possible influence from the Deftones.
Those same crunchy guitar riffs that dominated the ending of the previous song are what open the closing track, "As the Smoke Clears," which clocks in just over seven minutes. As the echo of these riffs fades off, in the background one again we hear those warm and soothing guitar tones that pay homage to My Bloody Valentine. But unlike his style on Effloresce, Vennart's vocal display is much more subdued, less falsetto as compared to the Jeff Buckley-inspired vocals of their last effort. As the song draws to an end, the heavy rocking rhythm riffs and screams that evoke an uneasy feeling take control. As the guitars slowly disappear, the EP fades out to the sound of various swirling electronic effects.
It's hard to compare a memorable full-length to an EP of new material for obvious reasons. The most apparent being the differential in the amount of material. But between the two efforts there is one noticeable difference: Music for Nurses displays a lot more free-form structure to the songs, an added bonus for those that enjoy bands that distinguish themselves from a crowd. And while there are more thought-provoking songs this time around, I can't help but wish Oceansize had continued to make more songs geared towards the mainstream, something they are very capable of and did quite well before.
7.5 / 10
Staying certain to an unspoken pattern of two years between releases, Oceansize has returned to us with their third full-length album. Including the bonus track, Voorhees, Frames clocks in at ...
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