Almost 40 years down the line, Orchestral Manoeuvres in The Dark or OMD haven’t lost their knack of sound shaping. For their thirteenth album, the British electronica pioneers are more hopeful and darker than ever. Pulling from their strongest moments and modern greats, the album sounds like the 80s evolved while having a few of the poorly aged hang-ups that pulling from the era leads to.
Rumbling with deep 80s electronica and some modern EDM polish, the album opens brightly on “The Punishment of Luxury.” Straddling multiple eras of electronic pop, it seems the slightly cheesy writing may help or hurt depending on the listener. Moving to a much more sprawling push of synths, “Isotype” makes much more majestic uses of the band’s experience crafting sounds. Taking the standout features of their earlier work instead of the less glorious ones, they create a sophisticated and moving piece.
Clashing their catchy hooks with heavily abrasive keys, they find a weird mash-up of grimy synths and MIKA-esque pop. Through their technologically-focused lyrics, they take a fun stab at speculative fiction as well. “What Have We Done” floats on angelic chords and sublime snap percussion to create a great base for a track that doesn’t quite deserve it. Despite a great sense of tone in the rest of the song, the lyrics and overall delivery on this end just feels all too cliché for 2017.
“Precision & Decay” on the other hand goes in more explorative directions, as it mixes in digital spoken-word sections with a bass-driven melody. The overall mood that the band manages to craft between the music and the sound clips comes together as a biting and well-scored commentary on humanity. Getting extremely aggressive and bizarre, “As We Open, So We Close” takes big but slow steps, hitting hard in due time. Landing on its keyboard-driven choruses, it hits that same joyous booming the band (and friend in Erasure) have done well in the past.
Going the more modern route, “Art Eats Art” drives fast and hard recalling parts Kavinsky and Lazerhawk in its racing base, while keeping their glowing attitude strong. Carrying forward with a weird sense of robotic class, the track maintains its momentum well. “Kiss Kiss Kiss Bang Bang Bang” floats on its slow synth arpeggios, creating a dreamy and open natured feeling in the song. With a delicious vibraphone hook, it’s a slight shame that the vocal delivery sounds so pretentious.
On this note, “One More Time” tries a much more earnest and personal love song approach, taking the less over thought approach for the better. With glitch-filled electronica that really crafts a sense of place, they seem to be at their best in instrumentals. ” La Mitrailleuse” chants on an ominously dark and foreboding dystopian message of the robotic future. The real high point of the track is drumming that goes from military beats to gun-fire like to straight gun fire in a slowly evolving collage of rhythms.
Building its harmonies slowly, “Ghost Star” has a grand sense to each note as it falls, almost as if an otherworldly being were making the sounds. Taking a less blindingly happy approach, the band crafts something beautiful in their more wondrous explorations between the keys, vocals and soundscapes in the background. The second half also boasts quite the hook, almost feeling like a completely new song in the process. “The View From Here” closes the album on one final glistening note, as the band takes step after step deeper into a growing melody. Hitting a driving beat, the track has a real modern kick that ends the album sharply.
Words by Owen Maxwell