ØR is the third album (and first record since 2015) by the Italian avant-rock band Oslo Tapes. The album’s press release claims that “ØR” is Norwegian for “dizzy, confusing.” The author of this review doesn’t speak Norwegian, but any Norwegian-to-English translator he used claimed that it either translated to “giddy” or “ear.”
Regardless of ØR’s literal translation, the thesis statement set out in the album title is to create “…a dizzying ride through a feverish dreamscape of imaginary Norwegian highlands painted in cubistic shapes.” The album incorporates a plethora of musical stylings from prog, indie, dance, krautrock, and alternative in conjunction with low, dream-pop vocals and atmospheric audio details to create a unique ambient experience. If ØR is a translation for ear, then the title may be further apropos, as there is plenty of details mixed together for you to discern with each listen.
“Bodø Dakar” was released as a single, and it is nice that singles can exist that showcase the album’s best music, without the need to worry about the two-to-three minutes time restraint that radio would put on songs. Now, that there are many alternative means of releasing a single, a song like “Bodø Dakar” can take its time to have an appropriate amount of build-up and release without needing to be concerned with condensing it to fit a station’s schedule.
Clocking in at seven minutes and 16 seconds, it is the album’s longest song by quite some margin yet is also the most obvious candidate for a single on the album.
Oslo Tapes would be a good band to hire for a soundtrack. The album has a consistent hazy, dream-like feeling throughout, which adds continuity to the experience, but each track has their own sense of individuality. “Zenith” feels appropriate for a spy thriller, “Kosmik Feels” has an inspiring undertone; “Cosmonaut” is easy to imagine being heard in a moment of reflection; “Norwegian Dream” is haunting and sombre, and “Exotic Dreams” features some very attention-grabbing distressing horns and guitar techniques.
Amaury Cambuzat and James Aparicio worked as co-producers for this album, and they should be congratulated because the mixing here is top-notch. Oslo Tapes are obviously a band that enjoys experimenting with sound and there are many different little instruments, vocals, effects, and soundscapes juggling in the mix that could be hard to keep track of and make into a coherent and enjoyable sound while also maintaining the intended experience, but it is done marvelously. These really are the right producers for the right act.
ØR succeeds in creating an atmospheric and enchanting experience, that could conjure up different images and emotions for each listener. Hopefully this record will attract more people to Oslo Tapes, because they deserve more recognition.