A tale told as through a mid-autumn dream, Oniric‘s Mannequins, released on the Spanish Caustic Records, is a representation of one such sleepy reverie once conjured by one of the album’s creators. For good reason, the worlds and stories that are made during the hours of our sleeping unconsciousness are often a source of inspiration. Taking a dream—an otherwise intangible, untouchable vision—and using it as a source of art of some form makes that dream as real as a dream can be. As with all things, however, there are two sides to a coin; for every dream a nightmare, for every comfort a discomfort, and a vast spectrum bridging the gap in between.
The introductory title track is a powerful and triumphant way to begin. Bells chiming and the sound of a celebratory parade quickly meld into an allegro waltz played with gracefully whirling instruments, featuring occasionally interspersed male tenor vocals. The song is a canvas of sorts for one’s imagination to develop various scenarios. There is an ebullient air to it which led me to want to embark upon some sort of long sojourn—perhaps via train—and listen to this while travelling through the countryside in a faraway land. It is my understanding that some of Oniric’s songs have been used for documentaries, and, under that context, this particular song feels apropos for such a purpose.
But then ‘Found Love in a Pain(t) (You Make Me Feel)’ kicks in, marking the beginning of a roller-coaster ride through a wide variety of emotions as the remaining tracks unfurl. The play on words here with the parenthetical ‘t’ is a bit confusing. Obviously it makes the words ‘pain’ and ‘paint’ interchangeable, but how ‘paint’ fits into the context of this, with or without the following ‘(You Make Me Feel)’, remains unclear. Throughout the tune there is primarily a cabaret vibe seemingly suitable for perhaps dancing the tango, while simultaneously there is an Americana presence as provided with a guitar. Granted, these genres were effectively fused, but not even a minute into the song a xylophone begins ping-ponging its way through the measures, the hyperactivity of which creates a dizzying sensation—no longer the previous ‘graceful whirling’—thus causing the song and much of the album to seem fit for something along the lines of a Tim Burton film. It is atmospheric inconsistencies such as this which are the source for providing the listener with a ride through the previously mentioned spectrum between comfort and discomfort. There are moments of contented listening that are then jolted or disrupted by something that feels out-of-place or overzealous. For instance, with ‘Beyond the Others’–one of the stronger tracks on the album–the beginning is a bit lacklustre, but once the introduction is out of the way, it’s solid through and through. The piano melodies shine brightly and eloquently in tandem with Simona Giusti’s subtly smoky timbre, collectively establishing a more somber tone. The aesthetic and thematic representation of this album would suggest there is an intent of evoking somewhat of a melancholic darkness. While that characteristic is not exactly sensed in several parts of the recording, they are present and felt here.
‘Tomorrow the Sorrow’ is the most structurally interesting track and certainly makes it evident that Oniric possess competent song-writing skills. Rhythmic alternations are found here with the variations between an eerie, accordion-tinged waltz, and the standard 4/4 time signature of a happier, more jubilant and contrasting movement that ultimately ends with a fade into the twinkling notes of a music box.
Beyond this, the record continues with the flip-flopping of effectively portraying a surreal, dramatic auditory ambiance such as in ‘Nirvana’, mixed with a frenzy of instrumentation as with ‘My Oniric War Machine’. Remaining consistent with the occasional confusion felt previously, the album then awkwardly closes with an abrupt finish in ‘Macabre History’.
An auditory allegory inspired by the subconscious is without a doubt a nice idea. This particular realization, however, takes one to various psychological spaces and not in a way that would seem congruent with what the band projects. On one hand, these are musicians skilled in what they do, but on the other, the music created is lacking an anticipated balance that does not unfold as the songs progress.
02) Found Love in a Pain(t) (Your Make Me Feel)
04) Beyond the Others
05) Tomorrow the Sorrow
06) Suggestions Don’t Cost a Penny
07) Nirvana (You Make Me Sick)
08) Little James (the Soldier)
09) My Oniric War Machine
10) Requiem for a Soldier
12) Macabre History