OKADA: Impermanence

Here's an album that should have strong appeal for fans of Brock Van Wey's bvdub project. Don't get the wrong idea: the music Gregory Pappas issues under the OKADA alias isn't a carbon copy of Van Wey's, and neither is the third OKADA full-length (the first one on n5MD) a bvdub knockoff. But the material featured on the album certainly suggests that any bvdub devotee would find much to appreciate about Impermanence, too; Pappas's project is also a natural fit for a label known for its emotive electronica output.

The dramatic opener “Vulnerability” is elevated by the sultry vocal presence of an unidentified female singer (a heavily altered Pappas?), an addition that gives the music's downtempo flow a rather trip-hop-like feel. Reminiscent of a typical bvdub setting, Pappas's pieces wend their way through multiple episodes over the course of their ten-plus-minute journeys, the opener no exception. In this particular case, acoustic piano and vocals warm the cooler timbres of the electronic design, and melody-based sequences alternate with others of a more abstract, ambient soundscaping-styled character. “Unrequited” then boldly announces its arrival with grime-encrusted percussive blows, a rare plunge into industrial aggressiveness on an album that's largely restrained in pitch and more focused on calming the soul than electrifying it. The moment passes quickly, though, after which the music reverts to the stylistic form and melancholic tone of the opener with another go-round of winsome vocal melodies and slow-motion beats. Strings, granular textures, vocals, and piano all thread their way into Pappas's expansive sound design, and as the lilting piano melodies in “A Halcyon Moment” show, there's room for prettiness in OKADA's world, too.

With one track flowing seamlessly into the next, Impermanence conveys the character of a multi-episodic single work as opposed to four separate constructions. The repeated alternations between calm and turbulence certainly support the title choice, the idea presumably being that the album's dramatic mood swings can be seen as an aural analogue to human experience in general. In that regard, it's not rare for moments of uplift and hope to be followed by darker passages suggestive of uncertainty, anxiety, and even despair. As stated, OKADA shouldn't be dismissed as some second-rate clone of bvdub, yet the likelihood is nevertheless strong that anyone enamoured of the latter should find the former much to his/her liking, too.

November 2015