When not making epic post-rock goodness with Dublin legends The Redneck Manifesto, Neil O’Connor has a tidy sideline in the form of solo project, Somadrone. Crafting a finely-welded mesh of electronica, pop, rock and classical styles, his sound is at once expansive and inviting. It is also a new one for O’Connor, whose previous solo work often reveled in synthesized soundscapes with overtones of modern classical composition. On Depth of Field, O’Connor flexes his songwriting muscles in a clearer, more direct manner than we’ve heard before, with the understated vocal accompaniments helping to keep things interesting.
The album really kicks into gear three songs in with the beautiful, piano-led ‘Conversations’. Beginning as a stark and sombre piece, it blossoms half-way through into a starry expanse, with bleeps and synth-mangling galore swelling up to take the track over and eventually drag it down to its final chords. It’s the first of many truly breathtaking moments on this record.
Where on previous records, O’Connor employed the use of unusual instruments such as Indian drone machines, theremins and vintage synthesizers to varied effect, ‘Desiring Machines’ shows him at his most concentrated and accessible. Beginning with a propulsive beat and distant, double-tracked vocals, it develops into a haunted pop song, not a world away from something we might have heard from Bell X1 before they started listening exclusively to Talking Heads.
While the entire mid-section of the album is near-flawless, from ‘Conversations’ through the impeccably arranged ‘Cinders’ to the golden rush of blood that is the ending to ‘POV’, the best is saved for last with closing track ‘Deadlines’. Brooding and bass-heavy, it wouldn’t be out of place if played at a drugged-up, strung-out, early morning party in a warehouse in some unnamed city in Eastern Europe. It is a perfect closer, blowing out with a wash of noise, peppered with seemingly random blue notes.
Depth Of Field is an outstanding release, standing alongside Strands‘ debut album as the finest mix of rock, electronic and classical influences to be found anywhere this year. A late contender for your favourite Irish album of the year?
Stream the album at Nialler9.