Over a decade on from their formation, Oklahoma-based indie rock trio Other Lives have reflected on their recent travels outside of their native land and created 'Rituals'; an album which revitalises the essence of the group whilst exploring new sounds and ideas. The album as a whole sounds alive and progressive as each track tends to vary and fluctuate in speed, tone and emotion, taking Rituals in different directions and sonically mirroring the journey the band went on when writing the new record. Trying out something more experimental with their sound has brought with it elements that are unique and different, but it's also highlighted some flaws that reflect the challenges the group now face in refining and cultivating the best of their achievements.
The album opens with the dark and foreboding depth of 'Fair Weather'. Frontman Jesse Tabish repeats the same line throughout in a ritualistic chant (ergo the album title), sounding like the resurrection of some old natural force gaining life as the track layers and builds in texture. Percussive elements become more rapid and snappier by 'Patterns' and start to imitate the sound of running feet as the album gains some momentum. Moods are lifted to a euphoric state as high pitched strings warm to major keys whilst Jesse's vocal range oscillates in pitch to intensify the changing sentiments of the record.
The peaks and troughs of the trio's disposition during their journey can be heard in other parts of the record too. 'Easy Way Out' is abstract and ominous, with fragmented piano chords and hypnotic xylophone patterns that follow the vocal melody in a strange setting of fatalistic dystopia - "We could find an easy way out. until it finds you", sings Tabish. 'English Summer', on the other hand, sounds far more soothing.
'Rituals' not only balances contrasting auras but also encapsulates different periods of time across the album. Whilst 'Patterns' utilises keyboard effects and discreet synthesizers to teleport you forward a few decades, songs like 'New Fog' and 'Need a Line' have more of a classical edge. You're occasionally put in a dream-like state of imagination as the wispy vocals roam freely above structured orchestral string sequences. Clearly, Tabish's singing has been influenced over the years by Thom Yorke and can, arguably, become slightly laboured and generic as the record wears on, but regardless - the merging of the contemporary and traditional is one of the ways in which Other Lives have built a truly distinctive sound.
A key theme of the album is Tabish's resentment of modern technology used in a desperate state of 'ritualism' on an everyday basis. The logical alternative would be to re-establish our connection with nature, and so several tracks on 'Rituals' sound like they've been influenced by every wild corner of the globe. 'Reconfiguration' blends oriental trills of reverb guitar riffs, a tribal bass drum and wailing backing vocals. '2 Pyramids' is equally diverse: strings here arrive in sustained, shimmering crescendos as instruments drift in and out, leaving the song occasionally stripped down to its bare bones, echoing the lyrics "All my elements to be undone, to become one".
The climactic ending to the album comes with the title track - a symphonic, slow-paced reflection on the journey that preceded it, and the ritualism of everyday situations as humanity are described as "creatures of ritual". The looping sequences of the lyrics and instruments can occasionally become tired and repetitive as the album goes on, but despite this, 'Rituals' remains an album that when listened to from start to finish, in the right frame of mind, can leave you in awe.
'Rituals' marks a transformation for the American trio who have gone from something purely one-dimensional to something more ambiguous and alternative, with tracks that move seamlessly into each other. Looking forward, now that 'Rituals' has set the foundations, the album signals the likelihood of some more exciting new material from the group in the future.
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