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BOTW Review: Oliver Wilde – A Brief Introduction to Unnatural Lightyears

When esteemed Bristol indie label, Howling Owl, announced local doom-folk producer Oliver Wilde as the latest addition to their roster earlier this year, it felt like the perfect marriage of style and ideals. Leading Wiltshire-born Wilde’s introduction to the Howling Owl stable was the lofty, spacious ‘Curve (Good Grief)’: a track that while not necessarily immediately relatable back to the noise rock (Spectres) or surf-strained shoegaze (Towns) purveyed by the label, still feels rich with the same idiosyncratic, left-of-centre charm. Wilde’s songs may at times move with a wrought, folkie straightforwardness, but the way in which he arranges them, smothering upon them layer upon layer of frothing fizz and manipulated samples, makes for anything but average listening.

You only have to keep an ear out for the way in which recent single ‘Perrett’s Brook’ effervesces fervently from the outset, bubbling like a cauldron that could boil over at any moment. It’s these sonic enhancements, brought about through a deft use of an arsenal of gadgets, which help to set out Wilde’s debut album, the wordily titled A Brief Introduction to Unnatural Lightyears, from a sea of likeminded alt-folksters. They never overshadow its pastoral elegance and rustic veneer, though; the way in which twine-strung guitars pierce through the crackle of the pristine, hymnal ‘Flutter’, or the chiming, solitary lines that illuminate the snail-paced indietronica of ‘Something Old’ halfway through, are perfect proof of this.

While things can start to crack at the seams the more up-tempo Wilde goes – take for instance the psychotropic, Flaming Lips wild ride of ‘Marleah’s Cadence’ or ‘Walter Steven’s Only Daughter’, which brings to mind Elliott Smith’s later, more orchestrated material (think ‘Bled White’) – these rarely derail proceedings. Instead, Wilde’s understated, affecting murmur acts as a particularly adhesive glue that holds everything together wonderfully. He may not be the world’s greatest showman just yet, but he’s certainly an endearing figure at the core of A Brief Introduction.

Truthfully, you wouldn’t want him to be some extroverted, bleeding heart diva anyway; A Brief Introduction is an album for personal consumption, to be adored through headphones in the dead of night. It’s rife with little moments of immense beauty that, while they may not immediately present themselves, ring true more and more on repeat listens. Whether that be the celestial, dancing synths that descend to Earth over the closing moments of ‘Happy Downer’ or the fuzzed-out stomp of ‘Twin’’s noisier interludes, there’s a wealth to discover here. At 50 minutes in length, it’s far from a brief introduction, it will certainly fly by, though: Wilde is always ready to throw a curveball and captivate in new ways, crafting an LP that’s beguiling, uplifting, contemplative and always engrossing.

- Alex Cull

A Brief Introduction to Unnatural Lightyears is available from July 22 on Howling Owl. You can pre-order it here.

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