Underneath its chilled electronic vibes and beats, ‘Once In A Long, Long While…’ disguises a soft sadness. Low Roar‘s new third album draws from a combination of influences: the breakdown of his marriage, coupled with the experiences of long term travel through 2016, from Mexico all the way back to Poland. The blend of pensive sadness and exploration conjures up the over-saturated sensation of a funeral on a beautiful summer’s day, at once drifting yet driving.
It’s been six years since Ryan Karazija of Low Roar introduced his self-titled first album, recorded in his Icelandic kitchen in 2011. Then three years ago, he released the album ‘O’, which rose to fame when it was featured in the trailer music for the video game ‘Death Stranding’.
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The elements of electronic and dream pop influence first heard in ‘O’ are now a sturdy fixture in ‘Once In A Long, Long While…’. They are a shy punctuation to the shadowed lyrical melancholy that permeates through the songs. The album is more musically eccentric and daring, with a strong production that propels the songs through the album. It may leave fans of his first album initially longing for more, but a closer listen will reveal hints of his roots in songs like ‘Bones’ and ‘Waiting (10 Years)’ to keep his oldest listeners satisfied.
Rich with exploration, this latest release from Karazija jumps between a number of influences from a folky eclecticism to a post-rock ambience. The effect is that each track sounds very different from the last, and all are worth exploring and understanding on their own merits.
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‘Bones’, the first released single from the album, is a particular winner. Featuring the stunning voice of Jófríður Ákadóttir, the vocals are distinctively prominent and clear. The song itself is stripped back to the bones, revealing the best of the simple melodies that make Low Roar‘s music so memorable.
There’s a lovely contemplative magic between instrumental song ‘Crawl Back’ and the minor keys and cinematic build up of ‘Poznan’. ‘Once In A Long, Long While’, the eighth song on the album, is a longer puzzle to unravel. It’s reminiscent of the glitchy synth sound of an early video game that is oddly offbeat and uncanny, like a 1980s Omnichord sound effect creeping slowly out of a reverberating dream and back into it, as unsettling as it is entrancing.
And ‘Give Me An Answer’ deviates another way altogether. With a Tycho-esque landscape of sound, it shimmers with ambient techno, and its melodies dissolve and sharpen seamlessly like a refocusing camera lens.
It’s hard to imagine at first that all the variety of tracks emanate from the same album. But Low Roar makes one thing clear; he has no difficulty in transcending through a varied texture of musical influences, bringing them home in his music. And underpinning it all is a disguised lament that deserves a prolonged listen. Because lingering through the quiet sorrow, there’s a warming glow that combats it all, establishing ‘Once In A Long, Long While’ as a twinned ceremony of melancholy and optimism.
‘Once In A Long, Long While’ is out now via Nevado Music.