Oppressed By The Line: Soft Focus
Drifting Falling

Oppressed By The Line delivers a solid fifty minutes of blissed-out shoegaze on Soft Focus, Jon Thompson's sophomore OBTL outing and follow-up to The Cause of the Colour (ClubAC30) (the moniker came to Thompson, who grew up in a small town outside of Houston, Texas, when, visiting the Tate Modern in London, he encountered a painting by Yves Kleine under which he spotted a placard that read, “I adopt the cause of the colour oppressed by the line”). He's your quintessential bedroom producer who, using little more than a 4-track and a modicum of other gear, weaves polyphonic vocal patterns, guitars, vibes, drum machine beats, an occasional cello, and multi-layers of synth melodies into lush settings suffused with melancholic ambiance.

Entrancement sets in during the opener “Condensation” when the vocal cross-currents blow across a willowy, synth-pop backing. Feathery, Tears For Fears-styled vocals emanate from the center of guitar-heavy vortexes in “Solitude” and “I Can't Remember the Sound” while a Styrofoam-like melancholia permeates “Don't Bestow the Lesser Things.” The title of “The Stars are Sleeping” perfectly captures the song's twilight gentility and a wistful quality also emerges during the song's hypnotically repeating drift of chiming keyboard melodies, vibraphone accents, and organ washes. The vibrant “Thousands of Miles and an Ocean Away” is as panoramic as its title indicates, though the drums that appear halfway through bring the tune's untethered, galaxial character down to earth, and so too is the seven-minute, slow-burning epic “Shattering Glass Houses.”

The accompanying notes cite Ulrich Schnauss, M83, Styrofoam, and Lali Puna as Oppressed by the Line's kindred spirits, to which one should probably add Cocteau Twins, Tears For Fears, and Manual—which doesn't mean Thompson's Oppressed By The Line doesn't have an identity it can call its own. That it does and an appealingly elegant one too, but denying that it occasionally calls to mind the work of other artists would be disingenuous. Nevertheless, Soft Focus won't disappoint fans whose appetite for all things shoegaze can never be sated .

November 2008