Their Ocean – Still Waters EP (2011)

Their Ocean, ambient then soulful, is one of those amalgams that sounds instantly recognizable, yet completely new.

The Chicago-based psychedelic R&B/indie rock group has described itself as “a cross between Hall and Oates and Arcade Fire, if they were friends with the Soulquarians.” As funny as that sounds, it’s about right. In listening, though, I’d add some other names, too. The title track’s keyboard textures — crunchy blips, then billowing washes? I hear Eno. The come-hither lover-man vibe of “Come Back to Me”? Totally Marvin Gaye.

It’s that kind of record. Yet, Still Waters doesn’t come off as derivative, mostly because of its open-ended song structure. While Their Ocean has absorbed these varied influences, they aren’t, strictly speaking, defined by them. The EP also finds a home for a tender-hearted singer-songwriter vibe (“Visits”). Ditto, a flower-power dorm-room blues (“Rearrange”).

That makes for a complex soundscape, though it’s never busy. There are no anthems here, unlike your average three-hanky Arcade Fire treatise. Instead, Their Ocean lives up to the ebb and flow associated with its name, moving with likable ease from melancholy atmospherics to mechanized dance beats to trance-y soul shouts.

WON’T BE by THEIR OCEAN from keith kreuser on Vimeo.

Comprised of singer/drummer Keith Kreuser (aka K-Kruz) and guitarist/keyboardist Jason Hunt, Their Ocean issued Still Waters last month on its startup label Field Recordings. (Jacob Croegaert was the main bassist, with Hunt taking over for “Won’t Be,” embedded above.) The duo also reportedly has plans to issue a full-length debut, tentatively titled Skies Light Up later in the summer.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has also explored music for publications like USA Today, Gannett News Service, All About Jazz and Popdose for nearly 30 years. Honored as newspaper columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section that was named Top 10 in the nation by the AP in 2006. Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.