The Okay Cars are an intriguing machine, built of synthesizers, drums machines, and electric guitars, fascinating to me for conjuring such humane, emotive tides from so many wires and knobs. The music and its delivery are understated, yet more powerful for its restraint. It's haunting, yet never depressing.
What appear to be so many illogical dichotomies are in fact the triumph of The Okay Cars' Stave Lake. Maestros Lars Berry and Brad Quinn (joined on this recording by Alex Wolfgram, who provided live drums) reconcile disparate elements, creating a detailed dreamscape, where shadows lengthen and distort, murky vocals whisper deep secrets, and light bends at odd angles to expose both new and lost truths. It is intuitive, in both its structure and mood.
Or, in other words, there is an almost David Lynch / Angelo Badalamenti type of vibe (especially on the opening track Under The Boats), alternately, and sometimes concurrently, foreboding and reflective.
The experience of Stave Lake is a bit like taking a time-release medicine capsule. The music reveals its arcane rites over the course of successive listens. And yet, it is also an album that is instantly accessible. They've made the complex digestible.
And then I get suspicious - it's so smartly done. I sometimes wonder if the songs aren't infused with subliminal messages, whether or not I'm destined to awake one morning covered in peanut butter, with the police busting down my door, due to some impish chicanery on their part.
Other times I wonder, wasn't that some melody from the 80's (see The Frost)? Subtle vocals and tiny embellishments suggest as much. The guitars and keyboards interact seamlessly, despite their differing timbres, with neither overwhelming the other. They perfectly complement one another in texture and dynamics, with no cheap effects or gimmicky bleeps and blips. Each tone is well placed and well considered.
Take, for example, the tender yet eerie sci-fi sound of Early Detection or the cascading scale introducing Beach Radio, a phrase that unfolds into lovely kaleidoscopic surprises I can't begin to explain, like some kind of backwards origami.
This Is How flirts with an upbeat approach, the lines, "This is how we go to hell," betraying, or perhaps celebrating, its easy sway.
The ominous Modern Details features a deep-burning evil synth bass and yearning riff. The guitar flirts with bluesy lines, but never succumbs to cliches, quickly shifting to an aggressive state. Or not.
The Okay Cars take the scenic route, rich in curves and twists and side roads. The terrain shifts, and unexpected panoramas come into view.