Melbourne indie artist Eddie Casper released his sophomore album Ohmage on Saturday. Self-produced, and with Casper performing all the instrumentation himself, the album was recorded in solitude in Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula.
In an age dominated by the “single”, Ohmage is a return to the album format of old. Best heard in its entirety from start to finish, the album is built from a diverse genre palette. It’s also Casper at his most intimate and personal:
“It’s the sound of me falling in love for the first time, and the anguish that followed when the relationship fell apart. I really had to learn how to put myself back together and all these experiences found their place on Ohmage. It’s an album of acceptance and gratitude, but ultimately a celebration of love.”
At fifteen tracks and with a seventy-eight minute run time, Ohmage is quite a musical journey. Thankfully, Casper is on hand to walk us through his creation track by track. So, pop the album on, settle back and let Casper take a lead:
This was one of the final songs I put together, as I needed to think carefully about how I should open the album. The result was this grand two minute instrumental piece. The song lays out the groundwork for the album; it sort of tells listeners that this isn’t a typical “rock” album and also instructs them to buckle up for a 78-minute immersive musical journey. My Dad earnestly tells me that it would make an excellent addition to the next Olympic Games soundtrack (thanks Dad, I’ll send it off to them haha). There’s a bit of a Steve Reich influence in the second half of the track – I especially love “Music for 18 Musicians”.
This is a fairly explosive track, isn’t it? Probably the “rockiest” song I’ve ever done. I think I was subconsciously influenced by ‘70s hard rock like Queen and Led Zeppelin. It has a pretty bombastic bridge in the middle of the song, before launching into a Brian May guitar solo which I really enjoyed recording. Lyrically, it’s about the complexities of relationships. I read a lot of Raymond Carver at the time and got into the whole concept of “kitchen sink realism”. I think there’s a lot to be learned from even the most mundane experiences, even fights in the supermarket aisle!
“She’s Got So Many Faces”
I had a demo of this song recorded just as I was finishing my first album It’s No Secret. It made sense to release this as the lead single, as it combines some of the ‘60s influences of the first album with the more experimental sounds found on the new album. I wanted to write a pop song with an unconventional arrangement that explored key changes, time signature changes, and dense harmonies – this was the result.
As I was recording “She’s Got So Many Faces” I wasn’t too sure how to finish the song. I was playing around with unusual chord progressions and through a key change I stumbled into new territory – suddenly this instrumental piece fell into place. There are about five or six E-bow parts and it sounds like the guitars are crying. It’s an incredibly sentimental sounding song so I named it after a sentimental date for me.
I needed to buy a new laptop in order to complete this track. I had maxed out the number of tracks I could use in the Pro Tools session and my old laptop couldn’t handle all the processing so it kept crashing! This track is a lot of fun because it’s like a melding pot of all the different styles of music I enjoy – there are strong elements of psychedelic pop, electronica, indie rock, perhaps even a little bit of krautrock and post-punk thrown in there too!
“These Things Take Time”
Believe it or not, I started working on this track back in 2015. However, with all the synth parts heard in the song, I never considered it as a track on It’s No Secret and shelved it. During the Ohmage sessions, I revisited the demo I had recorded, spruced it up and added the lyrics. It’s kind of both a love song and a breakup song rolled into one – the same could be said for the whole album too.
“Cherish You” was one of the first songs I wrote for Ohmage. It’s by far the folkiest song on the album. It was written towards the end of 2017, following the release of It’s No Secret. It’s a cute little love song that is actually quite sincere. For the orchestral interlude in the middle of the song, I was trying to channel the Beatles’ classic “Something”.
“I Wish You Knew (Everything You Are to Me)”
There’s a lot of experimentation on the album. Some songs I tried to push myself and make the most complex arrangements I had ever written, and other songs I wanted to see if I could make an intentionally straightforward song. “I Wish You Knew” falls into the latter category: the same four chords carry the songs the whole way through and the lyrics repeat, forming almost a mantra. The irony is that I wouldn’t consider this a “simple” song – with all the overdubs, I believe it’s actually the most densely layered track I’ve ever recorded.
This instrumental track features the backing vocals and bass line heard in “These Things Take Time”. I also grabbed the lead vocals, chopped them up and reversed them. Finally, I added a ton of new synth parts and ran them through the Roland Space Echo (a unit that features prominently on the album!). This track serves as a nice little intermission that breaks up the first half of the album from the second.
“My Little Herbivore”
This one is about my pet guinea pig. Haha, not really! It’s about the realisation that all the cliches regarding love are actually quite accurate. I wanted to capture that peak euphoric feeling and build an enormous track around it. The little acoustic ditty tacked onto the end of the song is a reference to how it felt like my songwriting was becoming irrelevant to me personally; I was more interested in living life instead! Thankfully, I pulled my head in and finished the album.
I had recently read the Virginia Woolf novel of the same name while I wrote this one. It’s my favourite Virginia Woolf book – while there’s not so much of a story to it, the language used is so evocative and vivid, the whole thing is like an intense fever dream. Anyway, aside from the title, this song isn’t really related to the novel, although it was certainly on my mind. The song tells a story of falling in love, through the metaphor of being rescued from a shipwreck. We’re sort of all lost at sea in a way, and our friends and family are like the buoys we latch onto to stay afloat.
I consider this instrumental to be the spiritual successor to “17.10.17”. I think it’s a rewarding experience listening to this one on headphones – you’ll hopefully hear all the subtleties. Although it’s an instrumental, the song definitely tells a story – I don’t think lyrics are necessary. When I listen to the song I picture things breaking down and disintegrating into tiny particles. My partner tells me the song contains “all four elements” – like in Avatar: The Last Airbender. I thought this was a hilarious, yet accurate, description too.
“Out of Eden”
This was another song that really put a lot of strain on my laptop’s processor! The song has two parts, which are connected by this woozy psychedelic breakdown in the middle. The use of drum machine, organ and the guitar tone was my take on the dream-pop sound similar to the band Beach House. The second half of the song explodes into a bit of a jam sesh, where synths sound like guitars and guitars sound like synths. Lyrically, it’s about losing love, framed through the metaphor of being kicked out of the Garden of Eden.
“What a Beautiful Life”
This was one of those songs that fell into place remarkably fast. I was getting ready to leave for uni one morning and decided to play some piano first. I was feeling incredibly joyous that day, and just began hammering out these chords. The words just came naturally within minutes – like a stream of consciousness. I believe I had just emerged from a relatively dark time in my life and remember feeling this overwhelming gratitude for being alive. I tried to channel as much of that feeling as I could into this song.
“Sweet Dreams (Noot Noot)”
This is a soft, relaxing way to end the album. It’s sort of like the end of a rollercoaster ride, when the carriage gently coasts towards the exit point. I have very fond memories of recording the vocals to this, in my bedroom at the farmhouse where the album was recorded. It was one of the most cathartic moments in the making of the album. I felt like I had finally overcome personal difficulties and for me this song represents acceptance and release. I love symmetry, so I took the droning string part that forms the foundation of this song and copied it into track one, “Darwin Siesta”. That’s both the first sound you hear on the album and the last.
Header Photo: Silan Humar.