Album: A Midsummer Nice Dream
Summary: IDM with sublime melodies. Great for fans of the genre.
The first thing that struck me about Ochre's album A Midsummer Nice Dream was that the rhythms were very similar to Aphex Twin's in style. Fans of works such as the Richard D. James Album and the Come To Daddy EP will certainly feel at home listening to this. One of the songs, Low Grav Freefall, even goes as far as to mimic part of Bucephalus Bouncing Ball.
The harmonies and melodies are generally more charming than the majority of Aphex Twin's output, however. If anything, the sound of the melodies is more reminiscent of the main instrument in Radiohead's Everything In Its Right Place: something that can fulfill the role of a piano, and perfect for sublime melodies, yet completely synthetic sounding, bearing no resemblance to a real piano at all. Similarly, the pads gracing tracks like Brancaster Coast and Eleven are similar to those of Kid A's Treefingers. It's certainly more accessible than either the Richard D. James Album or Kid A (except for the latter having vocals), being more on a par with the likes of Boards of Canada.
As far as the sound goes, it is better produced than the Richard D. James Album and more consistent than Kid A. The playful rhythms often employ a solid (presumably Roland TR-909) kick drum, rooting their otherwise idiosyncratic nature in a familiar sound. Meanwhile, clean sub-bass timbres help to give this album a pristine, modern feel. The percussion is generally quick and snappy, while the instruments as a whole are clean and polished.
At first, I found the rhythms to sound a little contrived at times, due to a lack of focus on the downbeat in some of the tracks. If you drift off for a second (which is easy to do with an album like this), it can sometimes be a little hard to work out where the beat begins. This doesn't particularly deter from the album's enjoyability, however, as the melodies and harmonies are usually the focus of attention, with the beats merely providing a welcome distraction. After listening to this album several times, the complexity of the rhythms ceases to be a hinderence. Instead, it helps keep the album interesting.
Drink Malk is the odd track on the album: it provides the kind of acidline that is familiar to most fans of electronic music. Rather than showing it off with a solo, however, Ochre chose to populate the mix with melodies that fit in well with the rest of the album. The title track features a solo of the piano inspired instrument, while Brancoaster Coast and Eleven are ambient affairs consisting solely of pads, giving the listener a much needed rest. The rest of the album sticks to the formula of pairing Aphex Twin style beats with sublime melodies.
With A Midsummer Nice Dream, Ochre proves that melodies can still play a more important role than knob twiddling, even in music rooted firmly within the IDM genre. Recommended.