I Am Oak – Nowhere or Tammensaari (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
THE latest album from Dutch folk/indie outfit I Am Oak was recorded during a two week ‘adventure’ in a beautiful house in snowy Finland, during which the band was encouraged to absorb their picturesque surroundings while arranging and recording the 12 tracks that ensued.
There are times when you can almost imagine that environment given the tranquillity that comes with listening. I Am Oak, themselves, describe their music as hauntingly beautiful and there is merit in that.
The sound of the album is very sedate and calm, mostly stripped back to acoustic guitars and subtle drum arrangements, with serene vocals guiding you through the lyrical observations. Comparisons have been drawn to Jose Gonzalez as well as Surfjan Stevens, and the former is particularly true.
Admittedly, the LP could use an injection of pace at times and could be a little too one-note and subtle for some tastes. But for moments of quiet reflection, there’s an undeniable appeal, particularly on the album’s best moments.
Among those, former single Palpable, combines infectious vocal harmonies and enchanting sounds and rhythms encircling the leading folk acoustic guitar. It’s quietly mesmerising and one of those moments that’s sure to draw comparisons with Gonzalez.
Roam, meanwhile, suggests a stark, even more stripped back offering that’s impossibly fragile, before suddenly bringing in some electric guitar midway through to lend the song a fuller sound.
Drooom broadens the sound a little further to include melancholy piano chords as a backdrop that lends it a cinematic feel (albeit briefly, as the song only clocks in at a little over a minute and a half), while Cluster makes interesting use of layered vocals while stripping things back down to an acoustic strum.
The band’s ability to create beautiful melodies from the simplest of instrumentation is also evident on the enchanting Reins, another moment that slow-builds into something more layered while retaining its sense of fragility and grace. It’s a beautiful listen.
Likewise, final track Everything in Waves, the longest song on the LP at over five minutes, but a suitably brooding, even hypnotic finale that also leans towards the cinematic.
Above all, however, the album lives up to I Am Oak’s claim that it is hauntingly beautiful. You’ll be surprised at just how hypnotic a lot of the tracks are, even if you may have some reservations about how well the album works as a whole.
Download picks: Palpable, Roam, Drooom, Reins, Everything in Waves