“Misery”, the latest album from OKADA aka Gregory Pappas is his sixth album with the last four appearing on the venerable n5MD imprint, who are having a stellar year so far with the recently released Winterlight album and the forthcoming Porya Hatami & Arovane reissue. Pappas has been around since the late ’00’s originally under the ZXYZXY moniker, but primarily recording as OKADA since 2014. The album originally was designed as a double, but then scaled back to a single to form a more cohesive work. The two titles excised (“Your Love” and “Deeper”) have been issued as a digital release called “B-Sides of Misery” which can be streamed/purchased below.

According to the label “while its title may hint at hardship and/or anguish, “Misery” is not all sturm and drang. There is an underlying hope in the album’s epic yet pertinent 80-minute run-time…Pappas has always been adept at displaying his current head-space in his music and “Misery” displays him in a fairly deep well of melancholy… Simply put, “Misery” has put a big exclamation point on OKADA’S creative ethos and has given us a remarkable look into Pappas’ translation of such emotions.”

“Bury Me” lush waves of synths with a bubbling undercurrent meet a sound that sounds like an opera singer put through vocoder before fragile female vocals enter the sound scape. The music gets progressively louder and denser with elements interplaying with each other. The slow build up brings the track closer to the precipice and allows Pappas to create the mood. Fractures snippets of vocals cut in and out alongside fragments of percussion as the elements start to dissipate and the first clear vocal line of “I’ve been waiting for you” brings in a beat heavy section which brings to mind n5MD label mate Brock Van Wey aka bvdub. The percussion is layered to give an almost breakbeat like feel to it with all the different beats and cymbals coming together and propelling the track forward. The beats disappear while the synths start skittering about before getting epic and adorned with the wordless vocals once more before a rush of noise and the vocal cue of “I’ve been waiting for you” returns in loop form teasing the listener expecting for a drop or the next propulsive section. Minimal piano stabs breaks up the suspense with a staticy break beat rearing its head super low in the mix. The piano brings about a complete change and feeling of the track and would indicate the melancholy as mentioned above by the label. The last two minutes see the electronics become more like a slightly claustrophobic sound scape with no clear discernible instruments easily picked out, but a heavy mood is created, which is as thick as the initial synths of the beginning and middle, but just more murky and all most impenetrable.

“Unclothe” dark, synths drones pulse out with clanging electronics swirling in and out that are joined by melodic dubby synths lines and air like sounds. Crunchy beats and indecipherable female vocals enter which provide a focus to the track and bring the elements in together. Additional percussion with a sprinkler like feel join in as well as more layered vocals and an Indian sounding guitar line (although without a list of instrumentation I could be wrong) alongside another melodic and dubby synth line. The thing about Pappas’ construction is that he is not afraid to have so many elements going on at the same time because he is able to construct tracks without overloading them with unnecessary filler. While almost glacial choral ambiance floats around adorned by pulses of air, repetitive piano motifs build up a reflective mood. The piano is later joined by a complementary bass line which leads the crunchy, staticy and woodblock sounding percussion to re-enter the sound scape as well as the wordless vocals and dubby synths. With a title like “Unclothe” you get the feeling about the track is stripping oneself back and starting over again. The other thing about this particular track is how circular it feels. The elements come in and around in more than a loop fashion, but as parallel circles of sound going round and around.

“Bruised and Bleeding” sees affected piano lines covered in a cloak radiate out with a reverberating feel to them. If this is melancholy on display, it feels that what ever as the cause of the melancholy is being left behind. A chime like drone comes in like a fork in the road leading the track down a new road with lighter and more intently playing further enforcing this feel of moving on. Pappas brings in the broken beats alongside those chiming drones which have gone from being a signpost to part of the track’s landscape. Big swathes of orchestral drones sounding like an epic string section further increase that soaring feeling of moving on. Mid track the beats subside leaving layered piano and fractured sound textures, field recordings, static, cutting drones to create a fairly desolate sound scape before crashing, broken sounding noises lead the track to the end with just the piano holding on to melody as decay surrounds it.

“Interstellar” rumbling field recordings like an early morning city just starring to wake are accompanied by shuffling sounds and woodblock percussion with delay on it. Kaliedescopic synths bring in a sci-fi feel alongside a xylophone giving the track a melodic percussive feel under the retro synth washes. Glitches, Industrial sounds, backwards phasing and a military style electronic drum beat take the track in a new territory. The track is more ‘out there’ in the use of its elements. Gone are the vocals (although fragments of some sort of voice/vocals can be heard buried in the mix) and lushness, replace with a more stripped back collection of sounds such as the metallic thin frantic breakbeats and long synth drones. Pappas continues to make sure there is a lot going on, just that it is not as full sonicly as previous tracks.

“Transient Lovers” long linear drones slowly get more intense, one being more melodic and the other being more a bass drone. Slow paced piano lines break through in loop form before a build up of drones swell bringing forth bass heavy beats with hand claps which are joined by skittered percussion, lush synths and the vocal styling heard previously. The use of orchestral style drones to cut across the track, illuminating it, but also at times being counter point to the vocals, but also complimenting the piano. The track starts breaking down, being stripped back to where just the drones and vocals remain. Utilizing just drones and vocals sets the feel for the piece which is rather naked. A synth line that is the same as the piano brings forth the next section which is beat driven without being four on floor, focusing once more on the skittering percussion to create texture and propel the track forward.

“Guarded” moody synth drones welcome a thoughtful piano motif that is dripping in melancholy. A surge of ambient synth sees the introduction of female vocals (from a different singer than before) which have a torch song quality to them. The piano increases intensity alongside skittering circular fractured beats and the vocals singing something along the lines of “We be in love….no it wont hurt you”. The synth drones become more orchestral as the track progresses which is most notable when, for when the vocals and beats drop out, they alongside the piano really excel. A pure Ambient section evolves out of the piano/drones with icy synth tones giving up celestial sounds alongside what sounds like manipulated string recordings giving off kilter sounds that act as a pathway to the vocals returning. The vocals and the icy ambient tones lead the track to its completion and finish the album of in a nice chilled fashion.

For an artist who has successfully released an album every year since 2014, each with epic long tracks, Pappas has certainly found his niche in creating deep, full down tempo music. I don’t really feel the melancholy hinted at in the press release (it is there but the music is not too melancholic), but definitely agree with the mention of “underlying hope” that you feel through out the album. If you love epic tracks that unfold in their own time with plenty going on , but not enough to strangle the music then “Misery” is for you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s