Review: Frames, Oceansize

Returning for a third album of thrillingly expansive prog, perennially underachieving Mancunians Oceansize have succeeded yet again in producing brilliant music destined to go largely unheard. Too heavy for the indie kids, too pretty for the metal-heads, too weird for anyone with a shred of sense, they have always fallen between all possible stools. Even singer Mike Vennart has admitted that, after a half-tilt at commercial success on sophomore effort Everyone into Position, this is a return to their previous expansiveness. Clocking in at 65 minutes over its 8 tracks, the band certainly haven’t held back, and the album seems all the better for it. Songs build organically, often imperceptibly, to dazzling choruses and dizzying climaxes. ‘Unfamiliar’ and ‘Trail of Fire’ see the band effortlessly scaling familiar heights; while album centrepiece ‘Only Twin’ steers its bombast just the right side of pomposity. ‘Savant’ and closer ‘The Frame’, meanwhile, see a gentler side coming through. The latter in particular eschews the easy fix of cathartic noise for a sweetly melodic coda.
There are missteps, but that’s hardly surprising for a band of this kind. 10-minute mood piece ‘An Old Friend of the Christies’ aims for the sort of tense atmospherics at which Mogwai so excel, but instead breaks up the band’s momentum. The real surprise, though, on an album which sees the band often expertly ploughing familiar furrows, is that the highlight is their most outlandish song to date. ‘Sleeping Dogs and Dead Lions’ is the most baffling piece of math-rock you will hear all year; it also contains more ideas than most bands have in their entire careers, with complex polyrhythms, scat singing, violent screaming and a plethora of choruses. On one such refrain, Vennart croons, “You put the fun in dysfunction”. A fitting epithet for a band of unrivalled creativity and growing conviction.