You need to enter a certain headspace to really enjoy øjeRum’s latest album Coiled Souls, but when it does hit, it’s absolutely glorious.

Release date: February 24, 2023 | Roman Numeral Records | Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram

Imagine yourself, if you will, standing in a cold, dark room; a solitary figure sitting in its center, oblivious to your presence as it performs these sparse, hauntingly intimate songs that leave you feeling even more vulnerable to your seemingly hostile surroundings. As you become attuned to these sounds and sights, though, you come to realize that the room you’re standing in isn’t so dark after all, as there are specks of muted color everywhere. You feel a strange warmth creeping across your body, radiating not off the figure you can still barely perceive, but the very sound it produces. It’s not exactly comforting but certainly not unwelcome compared to the erstwhile chill that left you shivering in a corner, clamoring for every morsel of chalor you could possibly cling onto. And at that moment, this strange, strange room doesn’t even seem as intimidating as before.

You can probably see where I’m going here. In painting this mental picture, I’m trying to convey to you the way øjeRum made me feel with his latest record Coiled Souls. The Danish collage artist and musician has been frequenting the liminal spaces between ambient and acoustic works for quite a while now, always achieving a certain sense of non-threatening unease as he explores haunting textures and an at times frightening sense of honesty that make his music so special. On Coiled Souls, he sticks to his voice and an acoustic guitar as his arsenal of choice. This isn’t exactly clearly delineated folk music as much as it is a threadbare amalgam of deeply affecting sounds.

Behind the softly unsettling cover art (courtesy of øjeRum himself) await ten songs spanning 39 minutes. The overall aesthetic relies heavily on the album’s minimal set-up: one room, one voice, one guitar. This much becomes apparent early on, and honestly, it’s not like anything else would’ve been needed to make Coiled Souls a special record. In its self-imposed reduction lies its biggest strength; anything more would’ve been superfluous, an impediment. “Soft Pastel Tongue”, the album’s first single (which we’ve previously premiered) demonstrates this axiom quite beautifully. Reverberating guitar and reticent, withdrawn vocals mingle in a repetitive composition that hypnotizes the listener into a blankly floating sensation. There’s an almost tangible restraint to this sound, and it’s carried out perfectly throughout the entire record.

Album opener “Embrace The Serpent” would’ve made for a similarly illustrative example, as it follows the same formula as “Soft Pastel Tongue” to equally enrapturing effect. Coiled Souls isn’t a record that serves you an endless slew of surprises; instead, it hones in on a single mood and perfects it, projects it right into your personal reality. øjeRum knows how to make the most of his tools, painting ten distinct but unified pictures with the same paintbrush and colors. “The Soul That Crossed The Sun” has an elegiac vocal line that’s probably my favorite on the whole album, while “As The Flowers Grew, So Did The Loneliness Of The Heart” (impeccable title, this one) feels like it resonates right inside your head, which gives it this levitating, disorienting quality that’s hard to nail down.

“The Wind In The Spines” and “Reborn As Snow” are late-album highlights that offer subtle new nuances to the established identity of Coiled Souls. As a whole, this record can be emotionally impenetrable for those that can’t latch on to the inherent qualities of its musical direction; the dejected, drifting mood and sparse instrumentation don’t offer much in terms of instant gratification unless you’re a) already familiar with this kind of artistic expression or b) unwaveringly willing to be open to its vulnerability. Personally, I couldn’t think of a single criticism I could reasonably levy against øjeRum this time around; even the extreme compositional minimalism of Coiled Souls becomes an expressive and enjoyable means of self-expression in his hands.

Dominik Böhmer

Dominik Böhmer

Pretentious? Moi?

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