Squid: O Monolith [Album Review]

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O Monolith
Warp Records [2023]

Squid’s debut album Bright Green Field (2021) instantly set them apart from many the other UK-based acts that garnered attention in indie rock circles at the time. While they’re often compared to bands like black midi or Black Country, New Road for their spoken word-style vocals, Bright Green Field highlights Squid’s unique blend of new wave energy coupled with knotty prog rock rhythms, both showcased by drummer and lead vocalist Ollie Judge. With O Monolith, the band burrows further into their singular sound while also making more room to explore different ways that sound can be harnessed.

Clocking in at eight tracks in forty-one minutes, O Monolith is slightly more digestible than Bright Green Field, with the songs long enough to go through several movements without overstaying their welcome. Recorded at Peter Gabriel’s Real World studios, the album’s production is detailed and layered, guaranteeing that you’ll hear something new with every spin. Synths bubble, guitars form interlocking loops, and Judge’s drumming ties it all together in often unpredictable ways.

The album maintains the dynamics of its predecessor, shifting from quiet, minimalist passages to chaotic walls of sound on a dime, often several times in the same song. Judge’s vocals are more melodic this time around too, although he still provides plenty of manic energy in his delivery. There are plenty of high points throughout the album, but O Monolith reaches its peak right around the middle point. The slow build of “Siphon Song,” quirky groove of “Undergrowth,” and the sonic twists and turns that characterize side two opener “The Blades” encapsulate the way the band explores different corners of their sound while remaining recognizably themselves.

O Monolith may not top Bright Green Field, but it does offer an equally rewarding take on Squid’s brand of experimental rock. It’s simultaneously more expansive and more concise, focusing their songwriting in more deliberate directions. It shows that Squid still have a lot more to say and they aren’t afraid of finding new ways to say it.

“Siphon Song” / “Undergrowth” / “The Blades”

Radiohead / King Crimson / Talking Heads

Bright Green Field (2021)

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