May 27, 2024

Squid – ‘O MONOLITH’ – “The underlying restless discomfort is both unsettling and satisfying”

WARP      9th June 2023

Meandering, thoughtful and fractured, Squid’s second album is distinctively them, moving marginally onwards from their debut but without losing what made them an attractive proposition. A fusion of Beefheartian prog, jazz, pondering spoken word and yelping shouts, the sound is intoxicating. With the addition of more electronics, the links to prog heritage are clearer, particularly on ‘Siphon Song’, where buried guitar storms ride behind vocoder and sweeps of melody, coming and going on breathy backing vocal sounds.

Time has brought them a confidence to indulge their ideas more deeply, making for a heady brew. Its melodic gentle tunes belie snarly thoughts and seething, angry bursts of idea. Washes of synth and twiddly arpeggios on ‘Undergrowth’ underpin cynical vocals and jazzing bursts. I’m hearing more actual singing from Ollie Judge here and it works, adding alternatives to the previous tactic of shouting.

‘Blades’, released as the third single from the album, with video, is playful in beat, packed with aural incident and bounce. Jerking along with the Ollie yelps we are familiar with, it nevertheless presents a new smoother, richer body of sound, around which the Squid signatures are woven. Staying relatively gentle (for Squid), it marks the album’s centre and the centrepiece of the new mature sound, which means it still whirls up a storm but there is calm in the eye of it, with pastoral horn sounds, and a holding back from explosion, allowing a composed drift down to the close.

Elsewhere, ‘After The Flash’ moves between distinct phases of chugging, pounding and lyrical wind sounds. The underlying restless discomfort is both unsettling and satisfying. Guitar input feels easier to put an emotional handle on, perhaps less consciously off-kilter chords. It’s paradoxically more accessible thanks to things like the closing track’s wordless choruses that give me an aural hook back to early twentieth century composers. The closing track is almost a summation of the Squid sound for 2023, with many shifts between component parts, intensity, but also warm accessible bass sound, restrained vocals and detailed, floating sonic decoration, with horns used as frequently as Love’s ‘Forever Changes’, and under it, a creeping sense of ‘can’t put my finger on it’ dread. It ends as suddenly as the mystery of existence ends.


Our review of the debut album is here:

And a review of the 14th June 2023 Leeds gig is here:


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