Massive, Beautiful, Elegant & Ultimately Hopeless. Oliver Wilde Is The Effortless Master Of Melancholy
Where his most recent LP, 'Post-Frenz Container Buzz', (which may have slipped you by when it was released in February earlier this year) demonstrated the fun to be had in taking earnest, existential lo-fi pop songs and glitching them to high hell with all the spasmodic ferocity of a particle smasher, Oliver Wilde’s surprise release, 'And This Is Where The Tragic Happens', is an invitation to leave the comforts of your rational life behind you, and fall into something as equal parts tragic as it is magical.
As has always been the case when listening to Wilde's music, you never quite know if you're coming or going, fluctuating with the same unpredictability as April showers; one moment you're the come-up, next, the come-down, as you’ll find in the see-sawing patterns of opener ‘Afternoon Mesh 847’, or eloquently put in lines like:
"Said if I was a violent storm // you’d have been the calm before" on 'Dreg Queen'.
And perhaps less eloquently, in his trademark dry wit and bold humour...
"I’m a dandelion, starry cat, cry wank, flat sound, happy gas // I’m a broken record, break up song, impossible unimpressionable" from 'Chicken Out'.
Yet, the fragile intricacies to be found in Wilde's lyricism reveal tides of crippling insecurity and disorientation, reinforced in his music by calculated stabs of sonic interference and post-production play - all this sitting alongside contorted chord patterns strummed with a grace that leaves songs as equally rooted to the ground as they are capable of casting away; picture a hot-air balloon fastened to a tree, soaring over the plains of Wilde's adopted West-country Bristol hometown, 'And This is Where the Tragic Happens' is massive, beautiful, elegant, and ultimately hopeless, with no one to pay it any attention.
There’s enough content covered (love, drugs, politics, depression, and uh… wanking) and poetic genius at work on this album keep you coming back for untold repeat listens, laughs and laments, with something new to be found with each play. As such, …Tragic could (tragically - sorry) go as one of the most criminally unsung records to be put out this year. Beneath the surface of Bristol’s emerging creative scene, Oliver Wilde is quietly laying the foundations of his own conservatory to the temple of great outsider acoustic songwriters like Elliot Smith and Nick Drake - icons of misunderstood genius that Oliver, perhaps a little self-aware, acknowledges in the opening line of stand-out track, 'Chicken Out':
"Life is a film that no one is watching // so play any part, you’ll be a star,"
As well as the tragic hero on ‘Bent Pretty on the Morph Ray’:
“Oh, how they adored me // composed sonnets about me // now I’m lying on the side of the road, in a bunch // as a memorial to someone who choked on lunch.”
Inward looking lyricism and a tendency to reject conventional song structures could leave songs ringing monologic, but Wilde on his latest effort seems find the sweet spot between introspection and space necessary to create a series of transcending, mournful epics. Said space arrives in the form of ‘Thawed Out in Plain Clothes’ and ‘God Please Pick Up,’ two refreshing instrumental breaks whose debased post-production and lofty string arrangements plateau above Wilde's crooning baritone.
On what is essentially an album of ‘throwaways,’ you can’t help but remark the effortlessness with which songs of such calculated potency were able to slip by official release to be given away for free to “bootleg, share, whatever really, it’s all good”. In his own words no less, …Tragic is “thread delicately with strands of hyper analytical self-awareness, existential confusion and all my demos that sounded too much like Elliott Smith songs to actually on a record.” It’s frightening to speculate what untapped reserves of potential still reside in Wilde, having proven himself the master of melancholy on what is now already his fourth full-length in a career spanning four LPs and an EP since 2013. But there’s also an excitement to be found with every one of his releases so far in the never knowing of what to expect - sort of like getting on a really fucked-up helter-skelter, blindfolded and backwards.
As far as acoustic guitar music is concerned, 'And This is Where the Tragic Happens' is a cataclysmic tour-de-force. It's the same kind of alternative balladry that, when I was growing up with Nirvana, Radiohead and Reuben CD's playing out of my bedroom, my mum might have misinterpreted as "a dreadful dirge" - which, of course, means the teenage emo in you will find lots to swoon over here. If that was never really you, then there's still something for the intrepid listener, and that’s to experience a warping new approach to singer-songwriter music and re-think everything you thought you knew about the genre.
You really will struggle to find anything else that stands out among the crowd of broken-hearted, bored and insecure twenty-somethings with guitars sounding anything quite like this - for better, or for worse, that's entirely your own interpretation. Nonetheless, star-boy Oliver Wilde is undoubtedly shining in a class - even a world - entirely of and on his own. Go discover him.