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Oak: False Memory Archive

Deep in the False Memory Archive of the second album from Norway’s Oak is a fully functioning account of ‘mainstream’ prog from recent times. Lighthouse introduced the band back in 2013 and during 2018 this second outing appeared, resplendent with much of what has made the last decade or so of prog something of a renaissance. “We, The Drowned” begins the journey, the accessible, shifting themes immediately sitting the Oak sound somewhere between that of the ever ubiquitous Steven Wilson and the equally prevalent, if slightly less prominent, John Mitchell (It Bites, Lonely Robot and much else). Dark, challenging, and yet welcoming, the 80s pop vocals shimmer in the gloom without every quite reaching to switch on the lights. The unsettling Wilson side comes to the fore on “Claire De Lune”, with Porcupine Tree and Riverside also now brought into play; the melancholy clear for all to hear, even if there is a gargantuan hook on which to hang your more optimistic hat.

And so it continues through the ultra-catchy title track (which has stayed with me for days after hearing it - handclaps and all), while the plaintive, sparse piano and guitar that introduces “Lost Causes” might just be too blatantly Raven era Steven Wilson for some - it is mighty fine though. The vocals here from Simen Valldal Johannessen are deep, syrupy and textured, beckoning you to your doom as though a siren on the rocky shore. He also plays keys across the album, while Oystein Sootholtet brings bass, some guitars, keys and banjo(!). Leaving drummer, keyboard man, programmer Sigbjorn Reiakvam to round out the line-up, although three further guitarists bulk up the tracks at times and Steiner Refsdal adds sax to the climaxing crescendo of the aforementioned “Lost Causes”.

That song is something of an epic, so fittingly the short, beautiful but still idiosyncratic “Intermezzo” then breaks up proceedings, before “The Lights” barely pierce the gloom. Pensive click-clacks of percussion and tightly formed looseness leaving a feeling of isolation in place that is turned on its head by the smoothness of “These Are The Stars We’re Aiming For” and deep gaze of “Transparent Eyes” where the hook is once again king. Allowing the near instrumental build of “Psalm 51” to catch the ear and the imagination by way of farewell.

False Memory Archive is impressively constructed, beautiful in sound, wide in scope and (especially the title track) lives long in the memory. However, there’s no denying that it also sounds dangerously close to the output from the current prog crop’s main players. They may evolve into something more individual, but for now if you are looking for a more Raven like Wilson fix combined to the clever hidden poppiness of Mitchell, then Oak are your band.

Track Listing
1. We, The Drowned
2. Claire De Lune
3. False Memory Archive
4. Lost Causes
5. Intermezzo
6. The Lights
7. These Are The Stars We're Aiming For
8. Transparent Eyes
9. Psalm 51

Added: February 24th 2019
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Oak @ bandcamp
Hits: 925
Language: english

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