Music Review: Nearly Oratorio – Tin
Analogue warmth, delicate percussion and sensitive vocals are terms that tend to come to mind
when I think of Melbourne-based musician Simon Lam. The projects he is involved with (including
I’lls and Kllo) often elicit the more introspective aspects of our thoughts while conjuring up images
of vast, untouchable landscapes. These images are more than ever present in Simon Lam’s newly
released EP “Tin”, his first EP since 2011 released under the name Nearly Oratorio.
The first track of the EP, “I Would Not”, immediately introduces us to a spaciousness that is carried
throughout all five songs. The extraordinarily high piano line, sustained chords, and vocals in
overlapping harmonies together lack a definite arrival point, allowing “I Would Not” to fall perfectly
into the second track.
“Tin” is a delicate concoction of raw Juno harmonies, soft falsetto vocals and a reverberating bass
drum pulse. The chopping-up and filtering of the tin whistle melody works well with the imperfect
double or even triple-tracked vocals. Both of these melodic lines seem almost unsure of their own
direction or purpose – perhaps an embodiment of the persona that underlies the EP.
“Veracity” has all the makings of a lo-fi bedroom hit: finger scrapes on an acoustic guitar, a hiss in
the recording, and a lack of electronics. Although it is sonically very simple (both in its recording
and production), the song-writing is as manifold as ever. It makes for a fitting interlude between the
more refined “Tin” and “Occlude”.
Being my personal favourite on the EP, “Occlude” has the raw analogue synths and tribal
percussion of “Tin”, but with more forward movement. Simon’s fragmented, filtered vocals have a
fragile demeanour that both contrast and complement the faster tempo and subdividing
percussion. The audio quality of both the synth and percussive layers are also mixed in a way that
is warm and non-fatiguing. Combined with the strong song-writing at the core of this track, it is an
alluring climax of the EP.
The piano chords of “Devonport” bring us back to the sonic landscape of the first track. It is more
fleshed out than “I Would Not”, longer in duration, and closes the EP by slowing until it finally stops
and fades. The final sound of Simon sitting up from the piano leaves us feeling scattered yet
Yes, these songs were pieced together from old material and yes, the recording features many a
hiss, but it is the subtle, delicate production and artistic song-writing that underpins Nearly
Oratorio’s new EP. Once again, Simon has proven that sonic imperfections can sometimes make a
piece of music more human and relatable to a listener.
You can buy the EP over at Bandcamp.
Review by Nathan Moas.