An opal is just a cloudy gem until the light exposes its beauty and depth. Other Lives' latest release, Tamer Animals, is a dusky jewel I almost missed. My first listen was during a workout and it made little impression. It wasn't until I played it again in a still room that I began to appreciate what the band accomplished. The sweeping, cinematic arrangements are utterly unique. Their reach has the scope of the Moody Blues, with a touch of Roxy Music's soulful diffidence.
The sound is orchestral and dreamy. Loopy elements bleed together. The flow from one song to another implies a kind of story to be teased out, moving from atmospheric to lush and evocative. It's deeply intensive yet restrained.
The first single, For 12, has a galloping rhythm that offers a sense of open western spaces, but it's tempered with a moody, dark undercurrent. The hand slap percussion meshes with the rich strings to meld folk elements into a cinematic score. The subtle piano touches are barely noticeable, yet add a perfect introspection.
Later, Desert's loose ambient opening settles into a sinuous, winding melody. The hypnotic feel tastes like Caravan as arranged by Ravel. The rhythm sets a well disguised trap, with lazy syncopation that sucks the listener into the opiated vibe of the song.
Other songs show different facets of Other Lives. From the soulful theatricality of the title track to the bluesy post rock modality of Dust Bowl III or the retro, slight psychedelia of Old Statues, Tamer Animals is full of interesting twists and glittering details.
(For 12 is currently available as a free download from the band's home page)