Few bands have successfully tamed spaced-out, proggy jams into an album’s worth of music but those that have can build an entire career out of it. The long expanses without hooks, the slow pace with which cuts can plug along: it makes for difficult listening in the wrong hands. With their newly released second album Obey, Exploded View attempt to cultivate songs from their fertile sessions and almost pull it off.
Opener ‘Lullaby’ and following track ‘Open Road’ inhabit a dark space between country, world music and dark, unsettling psych. Matching classic guitar with analogue synths, the trio stake a claim as the first to foray into pastoral-noir. Bubbling feedback leads the listener through a miasmatic fug and into hypnotic and swampy loops, like Swedish avant-garde pioneers Goat after a particularly potent spliff.
After using the pair of songs to establish the album as an acid trip in the mountains, ‘Dark Stains’ changes the pace and injects a misplaced sense of urgency with thudding 808s and a dangerous groove. Whilst it’s infectious as a standalone single, in context it confuses Obey in pace and purpose. It’s a signpost for the rest of the album and eventually, the niggling flaw comes into focus: a slight lack of consideration. The band clearly put the work in, but small blemishes throughout undermine the talent elsewhere. Be that the unfinished veneer of the recordings or the violent changes in pace and genre, the album is hard to engage with. Like a lake with a frozen surface, colourful scenes continue to play out below but are difficult to make out or jump into.
Obey almost exists in a grey space between opinions. Exploded View are clearly very talented musicians and the songs alone are often masterful manipulation of jam sessions. However, the album as a whole is confusing and frustrating. The band could easily produce something more coherent or engaging had they attempted it. That they chose not to leaves Obey as an extremely interesting proposition and, unfortunately, not much else.
OBEY BY EXPLODED VIEW IS OUT NOW VIA SACRED BONES.