O - When plants turn into stonesSimply put, “When Plants Turn Into Stones” by O is a phenomenal recording.

I don’t really want to classify this recording and believe if I do then I will lose something of what makes it so very special. All I know is this … from the opening atmospheric ambience of ‘Entstanden im Schatten wie Wasser’ to the final strains of ‘I offer my hands to the Shades’ with it’s downtempo, guitar & drum orientated post-rock melancholy; this is one special album.

This release brings together ideas from the ambient & post-rock genres to create something inviting, all-embracing and immersive. It is music to get lost in, a huge forest of sound to lose yourself within.

The slow, methodical build up of ‘Entstanden im Schatten wie Wasser’ is reminiscent of an instrumental Sigur Rós with its drones, pianos and waves of guitar-orientated sound, waves that crash in the ears with definite percussive flare in the most delightful of ways. It is a fitting opening to the album, a real taster of what is to come

From there we move to ‘How polished boulders carried us alone’ with the sound birds, a subtle toy piano & a field-recording of a rather intelligent child waxing lyrical about our place in the universe. It fits well within the album, especially when the soft chords of an ambient guitar begin to accompany the piece. These chords would make Andy Othling from Lowercase Noises proud. The track grows in size briefly before the chords & birdsong reappear. This is my kind of sound, a sheer delight.

‘Lack of interest in things they used to do’ brings forward the soft guitar chords and adds a sense of anticipation with deeply expressive percussion – cymbal rolls & a ominous timpani drums. The sound widens as the track develops … creating a wonderful wall of sound that envelopes, as described before. Snares enter the fray and add a sense of occasion, a sense of moment that is so hard to ignore. I found this particular escalation very moving & in keeping with the best in post-rock expression.

Just when I think it can’t get any better, ethereal voices add depth to an already big sound. Here the band goes all out for an expressive and very beautiful post-rock sound.

The fourth track – “When Plants Turn Into Stones” – is another substantial opus, one that starts with more atmospheric drones & softer chords before a guitar comes to the fore. This guitar brings the melody and, with the aid of further expressive percussion, brings a real Americana vibe to proceedings. It’s not just the bells that give this field, the guitars with their sweeping chords & the deep, gravelly almost-throat singing vocals (reminiscent of Mark Lanegan but not as identifiable) give a real Western feel. It’s a vibe I welcome & enjoy immensely.

The penultimate track – “Sometimes I forget to breathe” – follows on nicely, adding to the ambience of the whole album. It loosely follows a post-rock pattern with ambient, e-bow’d guitar initially providing the musical bedrock onto which slow deliberate percussion is added. The track slowly builds in intensity, albeit taking respite before the 4th minute in. At this point a broader, fuller sound is presented with a melodic interplay between two guitar and more otherworldly vocals … vocals that add a shoegaze element to the overall track and introduce the listener to a more manic wall-of-sound from furious guitars. If I were to pick a favoured track then “Sometimes I forget to breathe” would nose ahead.

The album culminates with the most delightful dirge, one that presents a downtempo guitar & drum orientated post-rock melancholy to the listener. “I offer my hands to the shades” enables the album to finish on a high, especially after it ramps up in tempo after the 3 minute mark. The feeling of anticipation as the track builds to its climactic release is palpable. This is an excellent track on an excellent album, one that rewards the listener for their patience. The climax arrives just after 5 minutes and is well worth the wait.

I would highly recommend “When Plants Turn Into Stones” by O. It delivers all I would want from a band seeking to push both the ambient & post-rock boundaries.

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