SCQ Rating: 76%
Paths, the new record from Olan Mill, arrived in Skeleton Crew Quarterly’s inbox through an anonymous source. No press release, no small-talk. In all fairness, I’d have completely ignored the email had the anonymous source not been, as it turns out, a writer from a well-respected music website. So I gave it a spin and let me tell you: ignorance is bliss. At the risk of not doing my job properly, I’ve taken to Paths’ neo-classical tides without any insight on the creative impulses behind Olan Mill or Facture Records; these compositions speak perfectly well for themselves.
One listen to “Bleu Polar” and one immediately understands the appeal. Blossoming out of a warm string passage, the opening track moves like a slow-motion daydream that’s at once tragic, uplifting and cinematic in a decidedly reserved way. Striking a vein similar to the dense but airy ambience permeating Stars Of the Lid’s work, Olan Mill then branches into a rippling, piano-based vignette “Springs” and the drone-fed “On Waiting”, the latter building as slowly and purposefully as a dramatic film score.
Paths distinguishes itself as two halves, perhaps as a hint to how superior Olan Mill might sound on limited edition vinyl, but there’s no overt difference between the approaches of 'Side A' and 'Side B'. “On Leaving”, a less weighty sibling to “On Waiting”, ends the record on a celestial high, with symphonic nuances layered over an emotional but steady plateau. Eschewing neo-classical’s high-brow reputation for compositions that are expressively mood-based and unobtrusive, Paths should elbow itself a loving position on the iPod of any ambient fan that loves having their heart-strings pulled.