O (Circle) – When Plants Turn Into Stones (2014)

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I think I’ll make a movie. I still need a script — heck, I need an idea for a script. I’ll need a director and line up some actors, location, set, and a crew. And there’s this small matter of financing. But at least I know who I want to do the soundtrack. O. As in, the symbol that’s pronounced “circle.” They’re perfect for this task.

O is a band from Germany and the Low Countries of Belgium and the Netherlands, and this instrumental ensemble is clearly influenced by other lyric-less bands before them like Tangerine Dream, Tortoise and The Necks. With only one full album and smattering of other tracks over the last few years, O is poised to make their Big Statement.

When Plants Turn Into Stones, due out June 6, 2014 (Golden Antenna Records) is an enchanted alchemy of post-rock, ambience and new age. It’s about the closest I’ve heard to Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays’ epic title cut from 1981’s As Falls Wichita, so Falls Wichita Falls, especially with the shape of these songs in the gradual way they unfold with unexpected transitions to another movement.

Though there aren’t words, there’s a theme, six tracks dedicated to the “six chapters in the circle of life.” As with their prior recordings, there’s the context of nature found in the song titles, and borne out in the natural progression of these songs.

“Entstanden im Schatten wie Wasser” rises from near-total obscurity, briefly leaving the impression that the low drone is a symphony orchestra. It isn’t, but the song progresses in a similar, unfolding manner as classical music. It slowly rides up to the top of its arc, reaching its high point about three quarters of the way in, and then dissipates almost imperceptibly.

“How Polished Boulders Carried Us Along” suggests innocence in its bare presence, the speech of a child heard from just close enough to make out his (English) words. “Lack of Interest In Things They Used To Do” actually has a rhythm, a careful, plodding pulse from what sounds like a tympani and eventually a military snare drum appears. None of this threatens to get in the way of the simple motif used for most of the performance until the full use of drums ushers in the chorus more than seven minutes into this nine minute song.

“When Plants turn Into Stones,” played in the video above, slowly works through a progression of chords in a strange/beautiful combination of a dreamy synth wash and gently played guitar. An easygoing rhythm puts the song on track but it maintains its lumbering pace as vocals can barely be heard, which remain part of the background fabric of sounds that make up a single, celestial texture. When the drums are dispatched, the song finds another pattern equally hypnotic but, like many of the other tracks, spikes up to a brief, grand apex near the end, followed by a brief, subdued outro.

After a tentative intro, “Sometimes I Forget To Breathe” gently opens up with spectral guitars descending into a dense, doom-metal static and an abrupt ending. And finally, “I Offer My Hands To The Shades” also gains tractions after its ambient beginnings, the tribal drumbeat going from a patter to a pounding in the lead-up to a cathartic, choral finale.

No, I’m not really going to make a movie. Too much work and too much money involved. But just listening to When Plants Turn To Stone gives me a fleeting but wonderful thought of how cool it’d be to have this majestic, simmering music playing behind my imaginary film.

Visit O’s Facebook page for more info.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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