That the band who wrote a song that soared to the melodic/poetic heights of their ’98 single ‘Shorley Wall’ face such a struggle these days to even get a release seems to their small army of admirers like a gross injustice. But it’s welcome to the real world for Ooberman, who’s lead singer Dan Popplewell, judging by Running Girl, seems only to have profited artistically from adversity.
The sheer pop ambition which freely permeated debut album The Magic Treehouse has on this mini album receded far into the distance, leaving the albeit charming exuberance it took form of in songs that reached for the stars such as ‘Million Suns’ and ‘Blossoms Falling’ to be replaced by a brooding musical maturity the depth of which is truly astonishing. The transition seems to have been made from surface-pop into a boundless creativity.
There’s a sheer charm and warmth running throughout the nine tracks of Running Girl that sees it glow like an ember in the snow. The subtly vocodered title track flows dulcetly from poetic verse to chorus before taking wholly the form of the latter in a delicately wrought crescendo taken to sensuous heights by the trademark vocals of Sophia Churney. This is followed by Churney’s own stark serenade to the beginning of winter that is a lesson in understated, effortless effect, ‘Flashing Light at Sunset’ – an intricacy that defies the listener not to breathe with the music. With a skill and tenderness that renders the epic into the suble, ‘We’ll Know When We Get There’ follows the hopes and dreams of a group of drifting settlers in search of the promised land, and from its poignant verse/chorus heights the album veers off in another direction altogether.
The indie audacity of writing a modern, fantasy-infused Russian folk-song would be sufficient for applause in itself without the graceful aplomb and musical deftness with which it is accomplished. ‘Here Come the Ice Wolves’ crackles with the warmth of true expression, setting the whole innovation off like a sparklingly brilliant Catherine Wheel, while the splendid ‘Ghosts’ creeps along beguilingly with a sense of a debased society overcome by a long-neglected, transcendent beauty. ‘Follow the Sun’ is an anthemic reminder of the band’s more “orthodox” past, but ultimately Running Girl is the phenomenal sound of a band stepping out beyond their genre limits. Whatever their commercial future, Running Girl will at least see Ooberman's name lit up in the lights of art.
10Neil Jones's Score