Karl is a longtime freelancer who's passionate about music, art, and writing.
Occams Lazer’s Odyssey of Noise Volume II travels down pathways that are enfolded in seething darkness shot through with more effulgent moments. The tracks are full of expressions of tension, melancholy and even tenderness despite aggressive, dense underpinnings that add cohesion to the music. There are what sounds like a multitude of different synth tones and timbres that all interact in a well-connected fashion to generate mood and emotion on the album.
The continued sense of black voids of twisted darkness on the album is generated by the slashing edges of sawtoothed bass that move underneath every track. There’s a gritty harshness and depth to that bass synth which drenches the tracks in a threatening ambience, even when there are gentler sounds moving over top of it.
Another component of Odyssey of Noise Vol. II that adds power to the music are the relentlessly driving drums moving under the music. They charge on and imbue the tracks with structure that keeps all of the other sonic elements locked together and contributes to the overall cohesion of the music on the album.
The melodies that Occams Laser constructs on Odyssey of Noise Vol. II are often surprising for their contrast with the more aggressive and shadowed aspects of the album. There are distinctly uplifting moments as well as moments that are tinged with a melancholy ache. The contrast with the black gulfs that roil underneath them only serves to emphasize their emotive qualities.
My Favourite Tracks Analyzed
Here is a look at some of my favourite tracks.
“Fortress of Noise”
“Fortress of Noise” kicks off with harshly growling bass sounds that drop lower and lower while glittering higher synths twinkle in above those vast depths. A warm breeze of synth flows in and a smooth, steady drum beat starts to throb into the track.
A deep synth carries a slightly ominous melodic pattern, thick and jagged, as a static rush fills the background of the track. The Stygian bass is now joined by a synth an octave or two above it, giving voice to a surprisingly delicate melody. I enjoy how it slowly rises up before the drums stop. Three synth tones all wrap around one another to carry the twisting, turning melody.
Deep pulses of gruff synth are joined by a heavy driving beat to open “The Tower. ” Higher sounds bounce back and forth in a slowly moving pattern as the dark, shifting bass moves in guttural tones under the scudding drums. The hard edges cut under the higher sounds and now the guitar slices into the track, crying out a rising melody that’s doubled by the warmer synths underneath it.
Those pulses carry a strong, rising melodic line while bursts of medium-high synth cut in. The melody has a catchy quality to it that I find compelling as the steady pulse of sharp-edged synth matches the drums and surges on. A darkly triumphant segment calls out on a medium high, full synth before the track ends.
“Eye of the Storm”
“Eye of the Storm” starts with more of the album’s trademark rugged bass and a distant electric guitar. The bass pulse matches the drums while the guitar grows in volume and the beat pounds. The guitar feels circular as a bursting, propulsive melody is carried on a bright synth over the roaring pulse underneath it.
The track moves to a section in which quick pulses of dark, thick synth with smoother, lighter sound above it play a broken melody. The fragmented melodic line leaps out in an elevated rush of intertwining sound, coalescing into a dominating melody that draws me in. The relentless surge of the drumbeat and bass goes on before the melody breaks into pieces again, cutting over the weight underneath it.
The steady throb of a beat and more clotted, shadowy bass is pierced by a harpsichord sound playing shifting, arpeggiating patterns of lambent notes to bring “Unholy Temple” into being. A medium-high, full-bodied synth carries a surprisingly uplifting melody, albeit one with some darkness infusing it. The melody drifts and floats with a singing quality over the power and weight deep underneath it.
The track slows while the harpsichord keeps tickling along before the drums accelerate again. The guitar cries out a rising melody that is shadowed but still imbued with a feeling of forward motion over all the thick growl underneath it, I enjoy the way the notes are pulled up at the end of each line of the melody.
“Control” comes to life with ragged bass and a swirl of luminescent synths possessing a melancholy feeling. All of the sonic elements form a interleaved wall of sound as slow arpeggios circle and glow over throbbing percussion. The serrated darkness of the bass supports medium-high synths that twist and turn together in deliberate motion.
I am a fan of the contrast between the sad, gleaming synths moving above the shifting, grim soundscape below them. The drums and bass stop briefly as shade and the light swirl together. The beat accelerates again with the sawtoothed bass snarling and the drums driving as the arpeggiating line of shinier synth keeps dancing. I also enjoy the synth solo with a round sound that whirls and leaps over the charging beat.
A roaming line of medium-high, minor key synth is joined by the beat’s energy and Occam’s Laser’s signature bass sound as “Panic” starts off. The melodic segment has a freewheeling quality to it that I find attractive. The beat batters on and the melody surges with a feeling of rushing energy as the dense medium-high synth dances.
A secondary, spinning and twisting synth line comes in, shot through with a sense of hope despite the mad rush of sound around it. There are still substantial shadows hanging over the music here. A minor key synth solo cascades through the track before returning to the main melodic line. This track is quite propulsive and has a quality of energetic motion to it.
“Lament” comes alive with jagged bass pulsing under slightly rough-edged, lambent synths that sustain longer notes over the gritty pulse. A smooth beat and higher, gentler arpeggios spin out over the drumbeat and the bass keeps swelling along with the beat.
A secondary medium-low synth line moves with an active pattern of notes under the rising clouds of synth above it. I like the sense of determination in that medium-low synth line as the drums drive on.
Steady drums move under a synth that climbs up, thrumming with tension, over the moving bass line that swells and fades as the elevated pipe-like synths in "Machination” play a melancholy, melodic pattern. It delicately moves over the heartbeat of drums and landscape of synth all moving around.
Warmer breaths of sound climb through the music in a reverent sweep. There’s still a quality of lurking danger and now the beat’s tempo rises as the synths up high flow, moving in a tapestry of sound, as the delicate melodic line with a feeling of shadow moves and fades.
Odyssey of Noise Volume II is not a stereotypical darksynth album. It is a great deal more nuanced than a less high quality work might be with a plethora of different timbres, tones and variations all working together to create a study in musical contrasts and expressions. Occams Laser has kept me engaged with his music on this album.