Oh Well is a one-piece progressive EDM project based in Chicago, Illinois, and led by Ryan Oswald. Their debut 3-track project, “Forging a False Reality” combines hard-hitting drum & bass beats with orchestral swells to create a unique backdrop for thoughtful lyrics that intrigue the soul. The sound and instrumentation is lush – the rhythm section providing a solid musical backing to surround the resonating baritone vocals. The music is dynamic, atmospheric and dark – the vocals pulling at your heartstrings, twisting them and making your facial muscles twitch in various directions. The opening track ‘Questioning Sanity’ is typical of the stark, pure beauty of this EP.
There’s no fat to trim. What’s more, it packs a wallop behind its low-key, unassuming demeanor. Possessing a mysterious intimacy and a melancholic grace. It’s unlike any other record I know of. Despite the title, ‘Questioning Sanity’, this is not the work of a crumbling psyche but of an artist at the height of his powers.
This is not the sound of an artist lacking in confidence. This is the sound of an artist who strongly believes in what they’re doing. This is the sound of an artist utterly inspired. Forging a beautiful vocal, reaching deep, and powerful lyrical imagery. This is a track rooted in turmoil and emotion.
The title track “Forging a False Reality” follows suit. Clearly Oh Well is making a statement on this recording, and sticking to his guns. While whimsical on its surface – with its oscillating pianos and ominous strings – underneath, the recording is fraught with conflict, unrest and the desire to comprehend the ill-lighted facets of the human psyche.
That it’s utterly beautiful, through the poetic nature of the lyrics and vocal work, says something to me about how developed Oh Well’s talent is. Capturing the inarticulate, most articulately, through the mood-inducing soundscape, further enhances this impacting listening experience.
A song about succumbing to sentimental possibilities, or as Oh Well eloquently puts it, “I’m Falling For You”, offers a sustained, captivating atmosphere where the artist is able to evoke a brightly burning musical glare that is both haunting and beautiful. The track feels so emotionally raw that communal listening can be difficult, though this in itself reflects on what has been achieved here.
Whether Oh Well aka Ryan Oswald has personally addressed the events that have in part shaped this EP is not always clear – if he hasn’t there are coincidences in abundance in the lyrical progression and the themes. What is mined here is a cathartic coalescence of disturbing emotional and psychological conditions as musical art.
A compelling listen, it is also an opportunity for genuine songwriting experimentation, which flourishes all throughout “Forging a False Reality”. This is an involved listening experience and demands your emotional investment, but if you let it, it offers perhaps the most rewarding musical journey of the year.