Squid have been in a state of evolution right from their first show. Darting towards one idea, then another, each project seems to exist in its own realm. Take the daring, math-leaning complexities of vital debut album ‘Bright Green Field’. Dynamic and complex, it managed to be open and accessible enough to storm its way into the Top Five.
Wiping the slate clean once more, ‘O Monolith’ is less of a second chapter, and more of a completely distinct book. Arising from a series of tour dates focussing entirely on incomplete songwriting, the record allows Squid to truly inter-connect, the band’s inherently democratic means of music-making storming across eight vivid tracks.
Opener ‘Swing (In A Dream)’ recalls the aesthetics of their debut, but with an added intensity. The needle is allowed to bleed into the red, the violence of the sound acting dichotomously to the sense of control inherent in their performances. ‘Devil’s Den’ opens with a spider’s web of guitar, faint wisps of trumpet matched to a spoken word performance that seems content to linger in the shadows.
‘Siphon Song’ opens with understated synth minimalism, before opening out in a swarm of voices, the lush harmonies sitting on top of frenzied feedback. Switching it up once more, ‘Undergrowth’ is Squid at their most melodic, a kind of extra-dimensional pop song with a naggingly addictive guitar line. ‘The Blades’ meanwhile has a deeply moving quality, its quiet urging staying with you long after the final note.
‘After The Flash’ contains a palpable unity, each section firmly interlocked. Finale ‘If You Had Seen The Bull’s Swimming Attempts You Would Have Stayed Away’ – aside from being a true gift to freelance reviewers being paid by the word – is packed with detail, the density of information far exceeding its five minute run time.
Much more than a simple sophomore project, ‘O Monolith’ allows Squid to grow in some drastically unexpected dimensions. Producer Dan Carey once more coaxes out some feral performances from the band, but the final mix assembled by John McIntyre of Tortoise – a band whose sense of daring Squid certainly parallel – has a distinctiveness that shears it away from their prior catalogue. No less inviting than their debut, while asserting its own identity at every corner, ‘O Monolith’ is a fine second album.
Words: Robin Murray