Omaloma "Roedd" EP Review - 19th April 2021
“Roedd” is a restless reflection on the turbulent reality of the early 2020s, presented though a dream pop mirror of slow grooves, softly sung vocals, 80s synths and organic tones, taking Omaloma’s gently psychedelic hi-fi sound into pensive and troubled territory. Putting poeticalness aside for a moment, it is also excellent – a real “sum-of-parts” effort that sounds effortless.
As per their back catalogue, the sound is synth-soaked yet natural, conveying throughout a feeling of slowly melting in the sun. There are layers of texture between the instrumentation and washes of reverb yet still ample space and definition, capturing the subdued etherealness of Cocteau Twins and some of the best elements of 80s synth pop (I’m hearing hints of Phil Collins, Spandau Ballet, Gary Numan, Eurythmics…) It’s not a sound that forces you to listen – the hooks seem deliberately gentle – and while it could be too soft, synth-led and subtle for some, I challenge any listener not to be drawn back to repeat listens by one of the many earworms threading through the vocals and synth lines.
Ruminating over prominent issues that are both contemporary and historical, with both local and global significance, the lyrics are meaningful and measured without being unnecessarily riddled. The tone is appropriately uneasy: there’s a brooding sense of concern over the state of the world, history repeating and the open-ended uncertainty of things to come.
Opening track “400+” kicks in like the intro music to an 80s TV drama. Rigid beats and bass set a compelling grove with synths moving in and out of harmony with the vocals. Musically, it sounds like the chorus to “Never Gonna Give You Up” on a light tranquilizer (I’m pretty sure it’s the same chords). Written shortly after Edward Colston’s statue found its way into Bristol Harbour, the lyrics are direct with no need for metaphor: Are we just going to carry on?
“Afalau Drwg” deals with cultural division in America and its seemingly deliberate mediation by “afalau drwg yn tyfu yn y berllan” (“bad apples growing in the orchard”). Like a storm brewing, the song is a slow a burner, gradually building through soft airport lounge synths, bass a la Tame Impala, slow Motown beats and organic sounds of percussion and marimba.
Following a brief percussive intro, “Peloton” returns to a more upbeat feel, accompanied by Vangelis-esque tones and piano. While a diversion from the EP’s broader themes, the account of a cyclist questioning their place in the peloton feels metaphorical: in an age when self-promotion and -comparison are almost unescapable, it’s easy to feel like an imposter.
Finally, with a brooding spoken word delivery against a hard hip-hop beat, deep bass and organic keys, “Awyr Agored” comes across as the EP’s most personal track for this Dyffryn Clwyd outfit. Following the uncertainty of 3 chorus-less stanzas concerning the growth of outdoor industries and second homeownership in rural Wales at the expense of local communities, the song switches up to deliver one of the EP’s best lines and melodic hooks: “Darganfod ffyrdd newydd o foddi dyffrynoedd yn yr ugain ugeiniau” (“finding new ways of flooding valleys in the 2020s”).
Consistently engrossing across the 4 tracks, this is some of Omaloma’s finest work. Cumulatively, “Roedd” shows intelligent song writing and production at its core. While it may seem a less obvious sonic palette for its lyrical content, this is Omaloma’s canvas and they know exactly how to paint it.