You don’t typically consider shoegaze when it comes to theatricality; the style’s very identify evokes the downturned eyes of a non-event. However New York-based duo ok and Ryan Hover, of Sweet Claws and Sound of Ceres, have at all times handled the fashion like a stage manufacturing. Throughout their oeuvre, symbolist plotlines animate an opaque, otherworldly sound: The deities Ceres and Calypso idyllically frolicked by Sweet Claws’ Ceres and Calypso within the Deep Time, whereas Sound of Ceres’ The Twin led a journey by Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain. On Emerald Sea, the Hovers’ latter group takes their theatrical instincts to new heights. Formatted as an elaborate play in three acts, the report is narrated by Marina Abramović because the omnipresent Universe, who falls in love with the Roman deity Venus; their story performs out towards a lush, empyrean backdrop.
On vocals, ok performs the central function of Venus with fairy-like surprise, pursued by the Universe as they journey by the titular physique of water and again into the sky’s void. Resplendent with harps and flutes, Emerald Sea’s preparations evoke fantasy, echoing the Apples in Stereo’s wealthy psychedelia. “Deeper Encompass” snakes by waterlogged reverb like a Mario water stage, “Handlion’s Palace” thrums and crashes with tsunami-like power, and “The Glare” is imbued with easy dream-pop romanticism. “The Fawn,” the album’s strongest music, describes a flame-lit bacchanal in flickering pictures and gilded guitar thrives. Delivered with a darkish playfulness that displays the title’s innocence, “The Fawn” makes essentially the most of ok’s voice; their voice sharpens to a high-quality level as they retreat right into a cornered panic, exclaiming, “Come see the place I’m!”
However for all Emerald Sea’s ambition, the album’s texture is simply too luxurious, like a heavy dish of foie gras. ok’s breathy supply hardly ever modifications; to that finish, even their uniquely ethereal tone ultimately collapses right into a grating background instrument. Sometimes, they range their inflection for impact—throughout “2nd Star Shroud,” they drop to a reverent hush as they whisper, “The place I discover you, moonlight youngster,” and on “Arm of Golden Flame,” their cautious enunciation is genuinely cinematic—however for essentially the most half, this immutability undermines the dynamism of the story. Even Abramović’s considered Universe delivers her strains as if she’s studying off of cue playing cards for the primary time. Equally, the sound of Emerald Sea doesn’t maintain sufficient musical variation to stretch throughout its manifold concepts. The place Sound of Ceres’ debut, Nostalgia for Infinity, drew on its members’ different strengths, Emerald Sea appears to fall into the identical complacent sample as The Twin, the place aesthetic eclipsed substance. Throughout the swollen strings, harp, and reverb, the magic begins to bleed into monotony.