Forced Random - I'm Still Here If You Want Me - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Forced Random - I'm Still Here If You Want Me

by Steve Rhodes Rating:9 Release Date:2015-01-12

Since first gracing our ears with the excellent It's Not Your Fault I Don't Blame You EP at the end of 2013, Oliver Girdler aka Forced Random has increased his profile with several small-scale festival appearances and support slots in and around his native London area, including an upcoming appearance this month at Shhh, a celebration of quiet music, and an apt choice that reflects Forced Random's musical aesthetic. With his second EP, I'm Still Here If You Want Me, Oliver has retained the home-recording feel of his promising debut, but has built upon this with a more mature, fuller and expansive set that delves further into introspective electronica.

'Final Go', with its understated drum machines, luscious piano refrains, and polite briefly-appearing guitar noises, backing Oliver's treated, reserved vocal, is an uplifting opener, somewhat at odds with the remainder of the EP. Two-and-a-half-minutes of utter relaxation that evokes the mood of New Zealand's Secret Knives, East India Youth or The Flaming Lips at their most laid-back. A warm, all-enveloping snuggle of a song, sweet and cheerful without an overdose of saccharine, it belies some of the lyrical content: “I don't understand/ It's complicated/ so I'll head inside/ I'm too scared to erase it”.

'Under Asleep' takes a more poignant approach, with a descending bass, an occasional spoken-word sample, piano, 70s keys, and a deeply-buried and echoed guitar, backing Oliver's distorted, multi-tracked, almost-underwater vocal. With a nod to Magoo's experimentalism and Liars' Mess, but with added soul, it is a deeply emotional and beautifully melancholic song that instantly connects, feeling personal and intimate from the off, while really getting under your skin, and one I'd happily listen to over and over again.

The brief instrumental furrow of 'Loop Troop' maintains the sombre tone, with a looped, weaving guitar and atmospherics like shavings of Robert Fripp while listening to shortwave radio. 'Blanket' is the standout track of the EP. Initially introspective, the track opens out into a beautiful, descending chorus with the mantric, repeated lyrics (“Gone to a place I belong/ only unstoppable”) at its centre. With acoustic and delayed electric guitars, and layers of subtle keys, it is a glorious building, swirling and vulnerable track, with hooks aplenty, which hints at shoegaze and dream-pop, feeling akin to Engineers, Orcas and Beck's Sea Change, especially in the strong production.

Title track brings proceedings to a neat close, with accessible Godspeed You! Black Emperor noises leading into an arpeggio guitar-riff, supported by background atmospherics that float  between the speakers. With bass and guitar plainly overlaid and vocals simply used as an additional instrument, bar the repeated title lyric near the end, it is a beautiful drone that sends you into a dream-like state, allowing you to escape for a moment from reality and the norm.

Oliver has returned after a year away with an accomplished and triumphant EP that masters the art of subtle distortion. A huge leap forward from his excellent debut, I'm Still Here If You Want Me is a haunting, warm and comforting EP that makes you yearn for more. Everyone should have Forced Random in their life.

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