Odradek Room - A Man Of Silt - (7.5/10)
Published on October 17, 2017
Ukraine’s Odradek Room formed in 2008 as Shards Of Silence, changing their name in 2010. Their mysteriously-named debut album, Bardo. Relative Reality, was released in 2013 to some critical acclaim and four years later they follow it with the limited edition A Man Of Silt.
The band are apparently named after Franz Kafka’s short story The Cares of a Family Man about a creature called Odradek, the meaning of which seems to have been debated at length by far greater minds than mine. Kafka describes the creature thus:
“At first glance it looks like a flat star-shaped spool for thread, and indeed it does seem to have thread wound upon it; to be sure, they are only old, broken-off bits of thread, knotted and tangled together, of the most varied sorts and colors. But it is not only a spool, for a small wooden crossbar sticks out of the middle of the star, and another small rod is joined to that at a right angle. By means of this latter rod on one side and one of the points of the star on the other, the whole thing can stand upright as if on two legs.
One is tempted to believe that the creature once had some sort of intelligible shape and is now only a broken-down remnant. Yet this does not seem to be the case; at least there is no sign of it; nowhere is there an unfinished or unbroken surface to suggest anything of the kind; the whole thing looks senseless enough, but in its own way perfectly finished. In any case, closer scrutiny is impossible, since Odradek is extraordinarily nimble and can never be laid hold of.”
Intriguing, but utterly confusing. Perhaps that was Kafka’s intention and presumably the band have their own theory on it, although it isn’t mentioned in the promotional material accompanying A Man Of Silt. Like the character the band is named after, the album is complex and unsettling. It’s not a happy listen, nor is it a straightforward one. There’s so much going on here – gentle acoustic into crushing guitars and an uplifting horn section (“Selfness”) grand, mournful lead guitars reminiscent of Paradise Lost (“Mirror Labyrinth”) sorrowful clean singing leading into malevolent roars (“Silt Flower”) and that only scratches the surface. Add in a range of vocal styles and the odd appearance of mandolin and music box effects and you start to get to understand the creativity this band is capable of.
To give an example of how Odradek Room go about their business “Divide”, is a 9-minute epic with melody and aggression taking turns like a wrestling tag team. Slow building acoustic guitars with gentle accompanying leads flowing into lively, screeching guitars then growled vocals, further light and heavy sections then plaintive clean vocals, with huge, powerful keys adding an extra layer. Some of the individual elements are entertaining enough, including some excellent guitars, but the whole just isn’t quite captivating enough.
And that’s the biggest problem with A Man Of Silt – there are plenty of ideas scattered throughout along with some great musicianship , but it doesn’t always come together into a satisfying whole. However, when Odradek Room pull it off, they really pull it off. Enter “Rain Trip”. It starts like the soundtrack to a sad film, with stunningly beautiful keys and horns joined by gentle drums and increasingly lively saxophone, then a melancholic female vocal and gorgeous lead guitar… and this time it comes together seamlessly. Five minutes of sheer bliss and one of the finest pieces of music in 2017.
“Selfness” is another highlight, with more magnificent horns, which reach a crescendo like the climax of an epic film and of course plenty of light and shade, melody and heaviness. It doesn’t get close to the genius of “Rain Trip”, but very little does.
Much of A Man Of Silt fails to live up to the promise of its parts, but it scores relatively highly thanks to the level of innovation and creativity on display and because “Rain Trip” is one of the greatest songs in recent memory.