Written by Takashi Hideaki (https://twitter.com/takashisound)
Photos by No Place Like Artist Agency
OCULA has had a busy 2019. Between releases on compilations from mau5trap and Anjunadeep, an official remix for Lane 8 and a widely acclaimed EP on Lane 8’s This Never Happened label, OCULA has quickly built a reputation of delivering and captivating diverse electronic releases. The way OCULA, who hails from the UK, crafts tonally organic and melodically laden house feels at once familiar and fresh. He’s gained a substantial following and support from industry mainstays such as BBC Radio 1’s Phil Taggart. And now, OCULA hasdelivered ‘Summit’, a 5-track EP by the way of This Never Happened. While one may harken to easy reference points on progressive house such as OCULA’s own label mastheads Lane 8 and deadmau5, one cannot refute the sheer merit of what he accomplishes on this release. Summit is meticulously crafted in OCULA’s signature style, a fresh and forward-thinking fusion of energetic progressions and poignant soundscapes.
This EP would not be out of place on the intimate floors of dance clubs or on your record player on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Such is the masterful fusion of sounds and vibes on this EP. Every sound on Summit feels purposeful. OCULA masterfully weaves ebbs and flows of rhythm, melody and synth work together into a sum much greater than that of their individual parts. ‘Insignia’ shows these skills off well, with a brooding and spacious beginning building intrigue and suspense into the bastion of energetic and melodic progression that follows. The ebb and flow of melody and tension create worlds within sections on ‘Insignia’. OCULA meanders through them like a rower, skillfully and seemingly effortlessly. It’s at once serenely simple and utterly exhilarating. The same immaculate world building can be seen on the title track ‘Summit’–a gentle, serene beginning grows and transpires into a gorgeous, lively resolution. It is at once blissful and animated.
The gorgeous melodic compositions across this EP are a key strength OCULA displays and ‘Summit’ is no exception. The melodies feel spirited, the textures unapologetically organic and real. There is not a word spoken on this project, yet every element of this EP feels thoroughly empathetic, unmistakably human. Tracks like ‘Rise’ and ‘Ember’ use this to a calming, sobering effect. On these tracks, OCULA layers soothing melodies with heavenly, expansive synth soundscapes. He creates a girding, warm antithesis to the unbridled energy on ‘Insignia’ and ‘Summit’. ‘Divinity’ seems to synthesize these two worlds, bringing together the gentle meandering progression of the slower songs with the energy and pulsating grooves of the first two.
The result he creates is an intriguing fusion of rhythm and soundscape. It’s at once poignant and danceable. The fusion of the two halves of this EP into a cohesive whole feels proud but not boastful, relishing in the achievement of fusing these styles together to such powerful effect in a fresh, unique tone. Melody highlights rhythm, rich texture shadows pulsating percussion. This record is not in the slightest disorienting and doesn’t need to rely on shock value for appeal–it’s sheer musical and compositional merit is enough to have you hooked on this release and anxious to hear what OCULA will bring to the table next.