Recorded at Big Skin HQ, the base for the band’s label operations. The band’s own DIY studio was (literally) built from the ground up with everything from label administration to recording happening inside its grubby, fire-stained walls. The resulting recordings are a direct representation of this operation, being the band’s most ambitious and accomplished work to date; a stamp moulded from their many meandering sessions there.
Vitreous was entirely produced/recorded by the band, affording much time for them to play around with old synthesisers and other strange pieces of equipment lying around, while also regularly playing host to all-night parties/recording sessions with friends. The nine songs on the record represent a fraction of the ideas explored in over fifty demo recordings undertaken in the studio in the year the album was recorded. The fruits of these exploratory sessions are borne out by the succinct articulation of the musical ideas on Vitreous, a refinement that comes only with a healthy measure of experimentation. No qualified sound engineer was present, allowing the band’s whims for making things sound “wrong” to slip through the net. Without the presence of a sensible, discerning individual to pull the reins in on such things, the production on Vitreous boasts an artful curiosity and adventurousness which becomes ever more attractive as the record unfolds.
Clocking in at just over 29 minutes, the record is striking for its sense of economy and directness. More remarkable still is the fact that within this half hour of music, such a broad musical spectrum is taken in. In this way, the listener’s sense of duration is warped, unhinged by the depth and detail of the work. The record proceeds with each song as a self-contained island with its own sonic character; a 29-minute island hopping tour taking in snippets of Kraut minimalism, 70s/80s glam/art rock maximalism, freak balladry, Prog noodling and electronic flights of fancy. Certainly, any element of the organic folk leanings evident on debut Hither Thither, are forsaken in some of the album’s opening lines: “Get me back to my gutbucket bedsit where I can smell the shit in the city air”. And so it continues thus….
Vitreous is a work that finds O Emperor carving out their very own unique aesthetic perspective. The sounds themselves admit a sense of this discovery. Luckily for everyone else, this record is one that is rediscovered again and again with each listen.
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