It seems like decades since we last heard from Michael O’Connell. His self-titled Culture Reject LP was a refreshing collection of loops and transitions; a musical journey that brought together the influence of countless remote locations and one man’s vision.
Forces is a different beast. O’Connell still lets delicate picks and frantic percussion meld into hypnotic grooves, but as Forces progresses, O’Connell offers songs more rooted in North American/European indie rock sounds. Percussion, brass and beautiful harmonies are still vital to his sound, but he’s able to do more with less when he so chooses.
Forces starts strong with “Avalanche”, a lovely combination of double tracked lead vocals, female harmonies and an understated “Chameleon Pt. 1” like bass line that smooths out the funky pics and hand percussion. The song is hard to ignore, but Forces really takes off with “Quicksand” and “Talkin Easy.”
The former starts out dark, but O’Connell’s falsetto and delicate horns come together to offer a head nodding, dreamy wash of textures. Clacking percussion keeps the song moving, but the end result is incredibly smooth. “Talkin Easy”, the high point of this EP, explodes into your ear holes courtesy of machine gun percussion, rapid fire harmonica, xylophones and beautiful horns that help the melody take flight.
O’Connell changes gears on the b-side of this EP, but the results are just as engaging. The final three songs are surprisingly straightforward; swirling harmonies and spare guitar provide the support for O’Connell’s voice, but these tender moments work as well as the bigger, bolder arrangements. It’s rare an artist can move freely from high impact, intricate hooks to sedate confessionals without losing voice or vision, but that’s what Forces does. It’s also a complete listen that combines so many diverse influences the end result is completely unique and unidentifiable.
WEB:: Culture Reject