“Gave up” is the first piece of music the listener hears on Division of Self. It’s a tense, almost schizophrenic start to an ambient record, with screeching strings spinning out of control as if chained to a nasty bout of vertigo, and a recent episode of insomnia snapping, cracking and bringing the music perilously close to the point of no return. Perhaps, judging by the female vocals that haunt the music, it’s the sound of a relationship being ripped apart at the seams. Ten seconds in, and it’s nowhere near the tag of ambient that we had come to expect…but it’s always darkest before the dawn.
This opening recalls the chilling crescendos heard during The Conjuring, its brutal soundtrack taking the listener aback immediately – just as it had intended – and is the musical equivalent to that sense of numbing shock and the hasty intake of air after the cold water has left the ice bucket. It brings the audience into OKADA‘s lair.
Division of Self has a cinematic quality, the silver screen brought to life through music. You can barely make out a child’s whisper, a placid, slightly melancholic piano and a female vocal that repeatedly cries out: ‘Tell me that it’s over‘. The dark ambient facade fades, and the listener approaches a lovely, inviting ambient interior, with rose-colored paint and dusty, forgotten statues, decaying together like former lovers tangled up in the dirty sheets of a dead romance.
“Colorless Pilgrimage” snakes through the stone-washed streets as if in slow motion, lost in a blackened romantic daze, lipstick set at an angle, smeared and past the point of caring. It’s a lovely ambient track that flutters like a white sheet in the breeze. The percussion is dulled, restricted to a couple of staccato-styled beats. “Personal Obliteration” may be the closest we come to the gorgeous spell of pure love. This track is more like sex and the physical side of love, expressed in a tender way. Perhaps this is the real point of division – the moment when it all falls down and becomes apparent that the love has gone – when in fact it should really be about intimacy, union and harmony. OKADA is ace at expressing emotion, be it a thirsty desire for love or a down-trodden soul steeped in lonely steps. A female voice loops the words ‘love you more’, but it’s a desperate wish upon a star. Even the shuffling beats seem heavy, just about keeping up with the pace, which is pretty slow.
The sedate strolling pace is just what’s needed. OKADA creates a dreamy vibe that is intensely warm and understanding, full of theatrical flourishes and quieter moments for reflection and stillness. Ethereal in sound, and yet flirting with clipped n’ clunky beats, Division of Self has an ambient heart that treads over a weary soul. The music has recovered from its troubled opening. It’s almost as if it were saying “don’t give up just yet”. (James Catchpole)