Oak – Not Afraid Anymore

Not Afraid Anymore cover art

Artist Oak
Album ‘Not Afraid Anymore’
Genre Post-rock / Instrumental
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Label Independent
Release Jan 19 2013
Rating Solid

‘Not Afraid Anymore’ is the first full length album from the French instrumental rock band Oak, and although it lies on the heavier end of the spectrum, it’s still undeniably post-rock. Treble guitar melodies akin to modern post-rock bands such as pg.lost take precedence over chugging guitar riffs and deep bass-lines; there is a mildly dark atmosphere to the album but it is not a resounding one. Despite the heaviness and focus on bright melody, what makes Oak different to the likes of pg.lost, for better or worse, is a lack of exploration into the dynamics of sound — a reluctance to explore both the very loud and the very quiet. Much of the music on ‘Not Afraid Anymore’ prefers to meander through different sounds — all guitar-based — with little deviation in volume. There are the climaxes you might expect from a post-rock record, but here it is less about the build-up and reward than it is the melodic wanderings and consistency of pace. The tempo is fairly constant, rendering an album that floats in and around you enjoyably, but doesn’t hit you with excitement or intrigue at many specific moments. So for this reason, ‘Not Afraid Anymore’ can be enjoyed in every moment of music that’s on offer, rather than simple anticipation for what’s to come. The result is an album that sounds reminiscent of the music that Meniscus have released in the past few years. In fact, ‘Not Afraid Anymore’ owes a lot to the Australian outfit, and this is one problem that I have with Oak‘s latest release — oftentimes I’d rather just listen to Meniscus. Oak unfortunately lack the more creative, noodly elements by which Meniscus excell so consistently. Though Oak arguably bridge the gap between the heavy, wandering sound of Meniscus and the pretty, melodic sound of pg.lost, I’m not sure that this was a gap that needed to be traversed in the first place.

There are moments during ‘Not Afraid Anymore’ in which the pace is picked up and excitement builds, for example towards the end of “Things Are Getting Bad”; but for those who are looking for excitement and drama in their post-rock, this might be too little, too late. The final two tracks, however, are where ‘Not Afraid Anymore’ really hits its stride, and this is in large part thanks to the brilliant use of a dialogue sample taken from the 2006 film ‘The Fountain’ by director Darren Aronofsky, that skirts the seams between the final two songs. This spoken-word segment — that beautifies so elegently the passage of life into death — is reminiscent of the sample used in ISIS‘s “The Red Sea” (until now my favourite sample in a rock song). The dialogue found here might be my new favourite sample, and it leaves me with a desire to watch ‘The Fountain’. The sample ends with the words “I’m Not Afraid Anymore Tommy” — a moment that builds excitement for the closing track, and signals the timely introduction of these excellent momentum-building drum rolls. This moment is undeniably the album’s highlight, and is the major reason for me wanting to return to ‘Not Afraid Anymore’ for repeated listens. It is a moment that rounds off an album that is rarely ever exhilerating, but consistently pleasing to the ears.