Peter Oren‘s second album is called ‘Anthropocene’ – but what does that mean? It’s the proposed name for the age we’re now in, where humanity’s effects on the ecosystem and geology are significant enough to warrant their very own epoch (climate change and mass environmental degradation, take a bow).
Couple this with the thrilling uniqueness of Peter Oren’s textured baritone voice (and try to believe that he’s just 25 years old) and we have an album with a really timeless feel. Something about his ageless voice makes it difficult to sidestep the fact that the environmental issues facing us now aren’t unique to 2017, but come from decades of deliberate action and complacent inaction in all the wrong ways.
“There’s no separating art from reality,” says Peter. “The reality is that our politics are guided by our emotions, and music has the capacity to demonstrate those emotions, at least on an individual level. And if you can talk to someone on an individual level, you might be able to have a more useful conversation than if you’re talking to a roomful of people.” So ‘Anthropocene’ faces the problem head-on – that one of the greatest crises facing humanity’s relationship with the environment is how we talk about it. For all that scientists are good at appealing to heads with their facts and figures, they’re not so adept at changing hearts.
Pinning art and activism to the same canvas, Oren gets to work on creating conversation. And for all its hard-hitting undertones, the album is eerily easy-listening. Environmental uncertainty, comfort and loss are all related to human approaches, sensations and relationships, from ‘Falling Water’ to ‘Picture from Spain’. In songs such as ‘Throw Down’, anarchist rebellion is turned with a gentle croon into an age-old battle; ultimately, however, the song comes across more as a call for an apolitical environment that transcends left and right: “politics is just staking your side on either side of a rift, while the continent’s adrift – ain’t no way to jump ship”.
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Through his frustration, there’s glimmers of hope. But his expectations aren’t naive. Instead, they’re calmly ground: the finale track ‘Welcome / Goodbye’ parallels the slow violence of environmental destruction to the effect of poison spreading through his veins, acknowledging that the end of the world as we know it will mean uncertain new beginnings: ‘So welcome to this record / And goodbye to this world / may a new one soon unfurl’.
“Nobody’s going to riot when the album hits the street,” Peter Oren says, “but maybe it can in some small way help turn the tables.” And that’s just what our Anthropocene needs now. In the global and tumultuous debate surrounding environmental degradation, there’s not going to be one pivotal point that changes everything. What the world needs now is the arts, continually and relentlessly, and albums like these adding to the conversation – and, to match the slow changes of the anthropogenic age that we’re now undoubtedly within, there’s a slow change of hearts and minds underway.
Peter Oren‘s ‘Anthropocene’ is out on Friday 10 November via Western Vinyl. The full track-listing is as follows…
- Burden Of Proof
- Falling Water
- Chain Of Command
- Throw Down
- Canary In A Coal Mine
- New Gardens
- Pictures From Spain
- River And Stone
- Welcome Goodbye