Squid: O Monolith (Warp) - review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Tuesday, May 28th, 2024  


O Monolith


Jun 09, 2023 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Squid’s music is packed with references to literature, art, film, and television, so it feels as if the British quintet can draw inspiration from just about anything. So it’s no surprise that their second full-length, O Monolith, is teeming with nods to the obscure. Their critically acclaimed 2021 debut, Bright Green Field, featured material inspired by novelist J.G. Ballard, and Monolith follows suit with abounding commentary on the world around us.

The album’s first single, “Swing (In a Dream),” is an itchy and frenetic pastoral about climate anxiety, which was written in a hungover stupor after the 2021 Green Man festival and inspired by Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s Rococo painting The Swing. Elsewhere, the band drew inspiration from animism and Twin Peaks (“Undergrowth”), witch hunts (“Devil’s Den”), and Theo Anthony’s Rat Film (“If You Had Seen the Bull’s Swimming Attempts You Would Have Stayed Away”).

Those lyrical flourishes combine with more prog-rock instrumentation to give O Monolith an ethereal sheen. The use of Fairlight CMI, known as a prominent writing tool for Kate Bush, is also notable: “After the Flash” uses Fairlight to create an underlying Shepard tone (that sound that always rises and never drops), which creates a subtle sense of unnerving tension.

Other tracks include standout “The Blades,” which rises into a luscious crescendo, only to end in a tender lullaby sung by drummer/primary lyricist Ollie Judge; “Siphon Song,” which makes use of vocoder to portray the 24 hour news cycle and our emotional disconnect; and “Green Light” juxtaposes field recordings with Squid’s notorious ragged-edged delivery.

O Monolith is vast, and it both benefits and suffers from this vastness. While it has plenty of memorable moments, paired with an unfettered desire to explore and innovate in the studio, it lacks the immediate throughline of its successor. It’s still Squid at their most experimental, but it has more bark than bite. (www.squidband.uk)

Author rating: 7/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10


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