If eyes are the window to the soul, an artists comparison would be how their album’s (films, paintings, etc…) reveal something about them. Where they’ve been and where their heading. The track titles on Gregory Pappas’ seventh album as OKADA look to reveal personal traumas. Titles like “Fucked Up Inside” and “The Right To Destroy Myself” counter those from his 2016 love based album “Love Telepathic” whose titles included “So High” and the title track. The good news is that it is not musically all Sturm und Drang. Pappas follows on from the equally darkly titled “Misery” (n5MD, 2018) with a work that feels cinematic, introspective and considered. Despite what the tracks are titled, this is a largely uplifting album which is epic in all its glory.

“Waves of crashing sound swirl around viscous beats and cavernous staccato piano. Sound becomes broken to be reconstructed many times over. This is not the lovesick or heart broken OKADA we’ve witnessed before. This is a cathartic, disillusioned OKADA, out the other side, worse for wear but building anew. The proximal six minute opening to the album expounds destruction and disintegration, chaos and rebirth. The eye of the storm then disseminates wide allowing a female vocal breath to imply ‘again”. Have these destructive waves ultimately lead to pleasure? or moments of rage that eventually lead to acceptance?It is evident that there is a need, a yearning, an ache, that percolates to the surface on “Life Is But An Empty Dream”. This, mind you, has happened in the first ten minutes of the album.”

Some artists fill their albums full of tracks, but you will find people like Pappas and label mate Brock Van Wey who opt for, in the number of tracks, a less is more approach. But what they do with the limited amount of tracks is pack in as much inspiration and emotion, taking the listener into deep contemplative moods through the simple journey of a piece of music. Pappas varies the moods of each piece with subtle changes like quiet dialog, slightly dark glacial ambient, down tempo stylings, almost industrial sounds and an emphasis on a cinematic feel to the music. While “Misery” was (and I hate this phrase) more ‘dance floor’ orientated, “Life Is But An Empty Dream” sees Pappas create a soundtrack to a movie in his imagination or his intimate feelings. One which, with my narrow glimpse of his catalog, could be his greatest release thus far.

“Fucked Up Inside” Dark piano stabs, ghostly ambience and crashes of electronics (not too dissimilar to label mates Suumhow) instantly mark a change between the two albums. Once listened to the album in entirety it becomes a bit of a false flag as if you are thinking about the journey ahead of you you would be wrong. However, what it does succeed in doing is let the listener know straight away that this is a different beast to what you may have expected. It also informs you that while the track titles may seem to be dark and on the down, the album doesn’t dwell in Misery. Pappas lets you into his cinematic world with a Post Industrial meets Ambient track of two halves. The first has an unsettling, dark  post apocalyptic feel and the second is a contrast with some acoustic guitar seeping in, swirling female vocals and a blend of ambient and vague post rock influences. It’s this style of the second half that Pappas will take through the remainder of the album.


“The Right To Destroy Myself ” A nice sixteen minute plus epic that opens with ambient stillness of the chilly kind. Pappas holds back on filling this track with too many features, rather he lets what is there work its magic at a pace which perfectly lets all the elements, the drones, ambience, piano and vocals organically evolve and seep out to fill the track. I am a sucker for this type of track these days as it has a minimalism and an overwhelming calm to it, which coupled with melodic touches generally suits me to a tee.Just after the halfway point a slightly distorted underbelly creeps in like a slow fog overwhelming everything and provides, for me, the highlight of the record where the paired female crooning meets gritty beats and the whole track pulses in and out. A simple sort of effect really changes the texture of the piece and somewhat hearkens back to earlier albums. There is an almost dub techno like feel meets modern classical that is a very alluring combination. The cinematic nature of the track is enhanced by the whispered female voice which at times is barely decipherable and feels very confessional. It is nicely paired with  buzzing electronics/drone and glacial ambience.

“Killing Myself For Your Love” stormy field recording mixed with a vinyl like crackle is joined by muted piano and swirling ambience and harp like vocals. Pappas is adept at using female vocals/voices in his music as he changes their role to be more of a musical one than purely singing. Skittering beats in a way give a slight revisiting to the territory of the opener , but with an IDM twist as they seem to fall about as soon as they land. This blend of Modern Classical, Ambient and IDM is a fluid one which would appeal to fans of each respective genre. The track travels through various territories that feature a particular style, but also evolving with the percussion becoming more insistent. The movements that are contained in this piece result in a track that feels very cinematic as it’s mood changes and the music really sweeps up the listener.

“I Still Wake Up Thinking You’re By My Side” the storms return bringing with them an orchestral drone that has a swirling distorted core. Female vocals battle through the haze as the storm becomes more intense. Evolving out of the maelstrom are minimal beats and a deep bass line that bring with them a change in the texture of the piece and a focal point to lure you from the storm. In the multi layered sound melodic chimes like sounds sparkle running counterpoint to most of the other parts of the track. Over time they track changes, moving into more melodic and calm areas where Pappas adeptly steers the track through a cinematic section, hinting at the storms that opened both the last two tracks. If you are taking the title into consideration and then reflecting the mood of the piece, it’s fair to say the opening is where the feeling of the title is best summed up emotionally , while the last 7 or so minutes are when realization and acceptance has come back. The dialogue that ends the album is raw and heartfelt wit its construction making it felt that it was taken straight from a movie.

This album has been on constant rotation recently and for good reason. It is quite simply an amazing piece of work that is simply all killer no filler. Pappas clearly has fined tuned his compositional skills over the course of the six albums prior to this release. The way that he organically lets the music evolve is testament to its success. The pieces contained herein reveal a producer at the height of his powers who has clearly dropped an album destined for the best of list for this year.

“Life Is But An Empty Dream” is available on LP/CD/Digital via n5MD.

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