You need to hear this. You really do.
Part one. Nicole Oberle – Skin.
I’m nosey and enjoy reading about how artists came to be, and who they are behind their music, so I was initially disappointed when my Nicole Oberle stalk (not in a creepy way) came up pretty short. In a digital world where artists utilise platforms to get lots of information about themselves out there, Nicole, from what I can gather, has chosen to keep parts of herself to herself. When I began listening to her work, I gained an understanding. I came to the conclusion that to know Nicole is to know her craft.
Nicole Oberle’s artistry is described as “textural ambient music and lo-fi beat-oriented work”. Her new digital album Skin was released on January 24th through Whited Sepulchre Records. We had a listen, and spoiler alert: We loved it!
Track one: Shipyards
Ambient sound progressively builds, and distorted voices and high-frequency static begin to break through sporadically. I immediately felt a nervous excitement for what was to come. It’s a haunting first song. Disorientating and unfamiliar in a lot of ways. The record draws eerily quiet towards the end before exploding with louder, even more, disconcerting static and distortion. Where’s my pillow to hide behind?
Track two: Self-Speak
Self-Speak brings a lighter feel initially. The ambient vibrations continue accompanied by distant vocal drones. The song steadily builds in volume and intensity before falling to a more gentle pace. That is until that all too familiar horror movie static gives you a poke to remind you not to get too comfortable. The words “self” and “speak” end this record. “Self” in the uncomfortable distortion and “speak” in the gentle quiet. This rounds it all off nice and unnervingly.
Track three: Unnamed
Unnamed evokes a feeling of sadness as soft, forlorn piano becomes a focal point amongst the atmospheric layers. The immersive song reaches its end in a flurry of sound as the volumes rise and fall. The finale falls softly into silence.
Track four: Cold Metal
Dampened drum beats and vocal drones accompany a gentle repetitive guitar riff. This record felt like either a moment of quiet contemplation or as the title would more suitably suggest, a cut off from emotion. All is open to creative interpretation where this album is concerned.
Track five: A Knot In Twos
A Knot In Twos was my personal favourite, shifting back and forth between warming traditional instrumental melodies and the chilling rise and fall of evocative tones. The play on emotions is intense and brings attention to how sound and frequencies can hold such influence over how we feel. There is a poetic storytelling element to the end of the song. As a writer, I was thrilled by this (of course). To me, the juxtaposition of the record reflects in the words: “I would tell him it was going to be ok, and he would say, I hope so”.
Track six: Cigarette Burns
Initial thoughts: Red Hot Chilli Peppers. An odd reference I know, but it lies in the strong guitar riff that kicks it all off. Unsurprisingly the Chilli’s likeness abruptly ends here as heavy electronic drum beats kick in and static noises and vocal drones return. You’re drawn to the distorted words as they’re on the very verge of being comprehensible, almost. The story continues.
Track seven: Stay With Me
Haunting vocals continue to hold the most attention in Stay With Me. And much like song three, the dramatic highs and lows seem to reach a level of mutuality and balance.
Track eight: Tired Of This
“Please leave your message after the tone” kick starts Tired Of This along with what I can only describe as the sound of old broadband dial-up. This was the shortest record on the album, and it draws to a close with a click of an answering machine as if the music in itself holds a message. I’d assume this will be something along the lines of “I’m tired of this”.
Track nine and ten: Nobody Knows merges with I’m Just Stuck.
The mergence connects two pieces of poetic expression accompanied by the ever-present ambient sounds. This marks a moment of clarity after the distortion and disorientation of what has been. Interpretation is again subjective. I’m Just Stuck ends with what sounds like a cigarette being lit, and a deep inhale and exhale to evoke a sense of relief. (Remember kids: Smoking kills!).
Track eleven: Separation
The existing atmospheric music of Separation carries on taking the spotlight in this final chapter. It brings with it stillness and a feeling of closure.
All in all, what a journey. Beautifully dark, haunting, unique, creative and overwhelmingly immersive. We strongly advise that you experience it for yourselves.