Album Review: Memoirs of an Oblong Sphere by Silver Pools (Republished from CanCulture – May 21, 2016)

What do you get with dreams and ambience? You get Memoirs of an Oblong Sphere, the debut album of Toronto ambient-pop artist Silver Pools.

Released on April 22, 2016, Memoirs of an Oblong Sphere is an exploration into the abstract – otherworldly sounds and dreamy concepts. It opens with “Spesku Strings,” a short introduction featuring a swinging percussion, like a metronome. Then there’s a calm, ongoing synth riff that gives this track a 50s-vibe. Fading in, and then fading out.

The next track is, in my opinion, one of the standouts. Titled “Carbon Cadence,” it features a dreamy wall of sound consisting of a repetitive bassline, a crooning, tenor vocal and mandolin chords. The lyrics are conceptual, a recurring theme about reality. He sings, “It’s not for real/You’re not real.” You may wonder what on earth Silver Pools, real name Todd Macdonald, is singing about. But he explains the song’s subject matter isn’t about a physical thing. It’s about something that isn’t tangible. It’s about life and energy, and you really can’t touch those things.

“All known life contains carbon,” he says. “When life cadences on this planet, I like to imagine our collective subconscious will float around as some form of energy.”

The mandolin riff comes back in the next song, called “Ice Cube in a Plastic Cup.” Again, the lyrics are conceptual. It begins with Macdonald describing the ashes from a cigarette that fall out as it burns. Next thing you know he’s painting a picture about people stuck in a car. The scene changes here and there, like a dream. Dream-pop, that’s what this is. It’s a dream. Finally, he sings the chorus: “And then the light turned into/An ice cube in a plastic cup.” Yeah, the dream is getting a little weird, but aren’t all dreams like that?

But apparently, the original lyrics were different.

“The song ‘Ice Cube in a Plastic Cup’ was first written in the summer of 2000 in the desert with my friend Shmuel Marmorstein,” says Macdonald. “The original lyrics were lost but a few years ago, we pieced it together from our collected memory.”

Macdonald says the figurative “ice cube” in the plastic cup is really the light of the rising sun seen through an airplane window.

The piece ends on a slightly distorted drone, a diminuendo as the sounds fade out.

Probably one of my favourite tracks on the album would be “Oblong Sphere.” It begins with a drone, and like every track on this album, it starts off calm. He sings “My condolences to you/oblong sphere,” which is kind of an ode to our dear planet. Besides, that’s what the name of this song, and the album title, is referring to. The oblong sphere is Earth.

“Our planet is an oblong sphere, imperfect yet spun just right to support life,” says Macdonald.

So since this track is about Earth, it’s a dream about nature. There’s the mandolin riff again, and some synth sounds and horns. The lyrical dreamscape uses the concept of horses and reins. I’m not going to impose a meaning for interpretation; I invite you readers to interpret this your way. Macdonald says the sound in “Oblong Sphere” came from listening to Tommy Dorsey, Frank Sinatra and the album Your Blues by Destroyer.

Memoirs of an Oblong Sphere is a dream really. A journey into dreamscapes, contemplating about the world. Again, no concrete interpretations from me. I can’t tell you what to dream about and how you should interpret a dream. But I can tell you this album is something different. Production is strong in this one; the manipulation of various sounds and instrumentations to create the dreamy vibe brings out the theme of the subconscious. So go ahead and listen to this. At least you won’t be dreaming about Justin Bieber or Ariana Grande. That’s earthly stuff. Memoirs of an Oblong Sphere will have you dreaming about life and other intangible concepts.

And I don’t mean Cthulhu.

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