Teeming with melodic epiphanies and layered sounds, Squid’s second album O Monolith is a musical evocation of environment, domesticity and self-made folklore. Like its predecessor, 2021’s critically acclaimed, UK number 4 album Bright Green Field, it is dense and tricksy – but also more warm and characterful, with a meandering, questioning nature. This is unmistakably music made by friends, but it’s not exclusionary – they’re inviting you in to listen with them.
The album began its gestation only two weeks after the release of Bright Green Field, on the band’s Fieldworks tour in May and June 2021. “Without that tour we wouldn’t have any of these tracks,” says vocalist and drummer Ollie Judge, of the fully seated, socially-distanced shows that allowed them to test out work-in-progress music. “People were so looking forward to seeing live music that we thought we could just play anything, even if it was unfinished. In some form or another we played about 80% of O Monolith, mostly without lyrics.” The band found themselves abstracting song structures that were familiar to them, alongside unusual time signatures and ways of playing. “We were quite keen on pushing ourselves musically in a way that was a reaction against what we’d done before,” adds guitarist Louis Borlase. “So we were playing elements of Bright Green Field alongside quite free explorations of all these new ideas.”
O Monolith was produced by Dan Carey, mixed by John McEntire of Tortoise and recorded at Real World Studios. There’s a running theme of the relation of people to the environment throughout. There are allusions to the world the band became so immersed in, environmental emergency, the role of domesticity, and the displacement you feel when you’re away for a long time.
Expansive, evocative and hugely varied, O Monolith retains Squid’s restless, enigmatic spirit, but it still holds surprises for those familiar with Bright Green Field. It’s a reflection of the outsized progression of a band always looking to the future. Like its namesake, O Monolith is vast and strange; alive with endless possible interpretations of its inner mysteries.