Squid arrive at their second album a significantly different band than the one that made their 2021 debut ‘Bright Green Field’. Their hungry curiosity, combined with a desire to push their own boundaries, comes to fruition on ‘O Monolith’ to create an album that is ripe for discovery across multiple listens.
The powder keg of manic energy that defined early singles like ‘Houseplants’ and ‘The Cleaner’ has quietly evolved into a more sophisticated beast. Where once there was congestion and a mild sense of panic, there is now patience and a sense of self-confidence that allows Squid to develop their ideas across time and space.
- READ MORE: Squid on new album ‘O Monolith’: “We’re all in the groove now: we’ve never been more confident”
Lead single ‘Swing (In A Dream)’ comes in on an uncertain bed of keys, but soon blossoms into a rich, restless palette of sonic tampering. Writhing, wormy strips of guitar, muffled drum beats, ambient synth chirrups and handheld brass interludes show off a band that has fully embraced the capacity of the professional studio as an experimental tool.
Squid are more interested than ever in melody, as exemplified by ‘After The Flash’ – although they do submerge its tunefulness underneath a patient guitar riff, a playful, psych rock-indebted keyboard line and a firmly locked-in motorik rhythm. Judge’s vocals are also more mellifluous than ever, as on the outro to ‘The Blades’ where he pushes himself beyond his natural safe space and into markedly more technical and vulnerable territory, with some aplomb.
On ‘Undergrowth’, however, Judge is animated by the philosophical idea of animism, in which inanimate objects possess spiritual dimensions. He imagines his mortal existence as being bound inside the physical constraints of a bedside table, singing with a straight face: “Put your thumb and fingers around my neck / The wooden knob on a cabinet / Pull me open and see what’s inside”.
‘Devil’s Den’, named after one of the Bristol-based band’s local real-life monoliths, bears a decidedly more creeping menace, loaded to the brim as it is with references to English pagan and folkloric supernature. Based on Vinegar Tom, a 1976 feminist play by Caryl Churchill set in the Middle Ages, there is dirt under the fingernails of the song, a sense of the band digging through their native earth in pursuit of something meaningful that they can rightfully call their own.
That mood is echoed on ‘Siphon Song’, which is more haunted by the future than the past as a sci-fi-flavoured synth smothers the track and a robotic voice ‘sings’ about internet-era paranoia. Spectral voices haunt the background of the song, but, unexpectedly, the robot finds his groove as the song progresses, building to an unsettling mix of sassy cyber-disco and ‘Kid A’-like existential dread. If Squid can make daring, experimental music sound as fun as this, then they will take some stopping.
Release date: June 9
Record label: Warp Records