Oliver Wilde
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Oliver Wilde

Bristol, England, United Kingdom | INDIE

Bristol, England, United Kingdom | INDIE
Band Alternative Singer/Songwriter

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Hi Oli, how are you?
I’ve been out of action for two months. I’ve been in hospital for two weeks.

Are you okay?
Yeah, yeah, fine. I had a heart disease. I’ve had to take it easy.

Was that a recent diagnosis?
Yeah. I had a stomach ache and I was walking up the High Street one day and I collapsed. I went to the hospital and they told me that I had appendicitis. I thought, amazing, that’ll be two weeks off work! But then they discovered that I was showing all the symptoms of this disease called Sarcoidosis [an inflammation of the lymph nodes that causes scarring of the ventricles]. So, my heart was working at about 15% capacity. When I was walking up the high street, as far as my heart was concerned, it was like I was walking up Everest.

That sounds terrible. Bristol is quite hilly, which probably doesn’t help. Do you have any medication now? A special diet?
Yeah, a special diet. Loads of tablets. Luckily this illness should only last three years – it’s not a permanent thing. So, in three years’ time, the only thing left will be the scarring.

Even so, that’s pretty heavy duty stuff.
When they told me it was appendicitis, I just thought ‘bullseye’! So it was a bit annoying.

But you’re on the road to recovery now?
I’m feeling much better, thanks.

Good. Your debut, ‘A Brief Introduction To Unnatural Light Years’ (reviewed here), is out now on Howling Owl records. It’s very reminiscent of Sparklehorse and Bradford Cox’s Atlas Sound. Are either of those musicians a big influence?
A lot of people have said that it’s similar to Atlas Sound and Kurt Vile. The truth is that I don’t listen to those artists that much. I haven’t got any Kurt Vile, but I do own [Atlas Sound’s second album] ‘Logos’, and that’s really good.

You’re billed as a bedroom musician – is that literally what you’re doing?
Yeah. The term “bedroom musician” can only be taken literally in my case. I record everything in my room and flat. Today I’m in a studio – only for rehearsing – and the difference in being here is big.

Would you want to record something more hi-fi a little way down the line?
I’m not going to say never, but I find it far more comfortable recording at home. It puts me in a certain state of mind. In a studio there are time pressures. There’s a subtle difference in being in a studio that affects the way you create the art. I find it much easier to be creative to write songs and accomplish stuff just in my own space.

How did Howling Owl, your label, get in touch?
It was always a hobby to me. But then I discovered SoundCloud and starting putting stuff up there and they contacted me soon after.

You were just doing this for recreational purposes, then. Where were you working?
In a record shop in Bristol. Y’know, everybody has their way of taking out their frustrations. Some people paint, some people take loads of drugs. I just decided to put it into music.

And then paint the downstairs toilet on acid?
Haha! No I go to work and take it out there!

So, if we get a moody server in a Bristolian record shop, there’s a good chance it’s you. The sleeve to ‘An Introduction…’ is a nifty lo-fi collage that looks like any number of American releases from the 90s. Tell us about it…
I’m hugely influenced by [Guided By Voices’] Robert Pollard. He’s prolific, but he’s not prolific for the sake of it.

Do you want to be that prolific?
I read musicians saying that they want to do an album a year, but then it doesn’t happen and it doesn’t look good. I’ll do my best to put them out when they’re ready. If it takes two months or six years then so be it. I don’t want to put any pressure on myself. I didn’t write this record with any intent on releasing it.

Do you think you’re just doing this in isolation? You’re not part of a Bristol scene?
I’m certainly proud to be a part of Howling Owl, but my music is very different to the rest of their roster. It’s a lot of aggressive music! People at those bands’ shows are moshing and have their feet in the air with no shoes on. When it comes to my shows, people won’t do that…

That’s a strong message – when it comes to Oli Wilde shows, keep your shoes on.
Definitely. Just have a nice sit down. - The Fly


BE IT FROM BEDROOM OR HOSPITAL WARD, OLIVER WILDE IS CRAFTING SOME OF THE MOST INTRIGUING SONGS TO EMERGE FROM BRISTOL IN YEARS

A lot of young men spend a lot of time alone in their bedrooms. Oliver Wilde is no exception, though he spends that time somewhat more productively than most.

In fact, he’s been holed up creating music he never really expected to be heard. But the full length record which has emerged from those confines has found an eager audience, and now Crack walks, in reflective mood, through middle class suburbia with A Brief Introduction to Unnatural Light Years in our headphones. While we expect the bashful and modest Wilde might resist the gathering attention, he fits the bill rather well. Redefining what can be done with a cheap microphone, a laptop and a vast array of seemingly innocuous objects ranging from “a passing car” to “a knackered old coffee machine”; taking those elements and creating a record that is so charming and real it stands up next to more widely known comparable artists such as Atlas Sound or Sparklehorse. The hard work and passion has not been ignored, and Wilde is an artist teetering on the brink of big things. What better way to find out what’s next and how he got here than meeting the man himself in his own bohemian neighbourhood for a coffee and a chat.

When we meet up with Oli he’s sitting in a South Bristol café with just his candy apple red Gibson Firebird for company. “I got out of hospital yesterday,” he tells us. He’s been suffering from the effects of a heart murmur. “Bristol’s a bit much, it’s tempting to get out there and do stuff but I’ve really got to be strict with myself and just do nothing. I’m going back to Somerset.” We can’t blame the man for wanting to take a load off. It’s been an exciting year already, with his album being picked up by Bristol’s foremost DIY enthusiasts Howling Owl. Still, he remains unflustered by the change in tempo from unassuming record store worker to in-demand singer/songwriter. “Before all this happened I was quite happy making these songs in my bedroom and chucking them up on Soundcloud. One day they must have heard my stuff online, and Adrian [from Howling Owl] dropped me a message saying ‘Could we put this out?’” It was clearly a significant moment for Wilde. “It’s such a massive deal to me, putting something so precious in someone else’s hands, but I’ve known the guys a couple of years. It’s a trust thing. It felt natural to me at the time and I definitely haven’t regretted it.”

Wilde’s been creating music in his bedroom for years, taking notes from the likes of R. Stevie Moore and Mark Linkous. “In inverted commas” he smiles, “I really like ‘bedroom artists.’” …Unnatural Lightyears reflects his love for analogue recording, with an expansive, warm, scratchy sound that could really only come from the paradoxical restriction/freedom that less-than-perfect recording equipment offers.

“There’s something about going into an environment where you’ve paid to be there”, Wilde contemplates. “It creates a state of mind for an artist, a sort of unnecessary pressure. I like being in my environment.” It becomes evident over the course of a couple of coffees that this is more than just a music nerd’s hobby, it’s actually more like a life’s pursuit. It takes time and dedication to make things sound this effortless. “When I come to record, it starts off acoustic and I might add a synth part or some electric guitar. It’s when there’s just a song there, recorded, that would maybe be alright on its on own that I think ‘right, what can I do? Put a distorted Pringles pot on there? Or the sound of my microwave on a tape recorder?’” He even goes as far as to suggest he might always reject the studio environment in favour of his own bedroom, casting these thoughts with no uncertainty. “Do painters have to paint in studios? Can’t they just get an easel and a bit of canvas and do it in their room? I guess they can. Does a poet need to go somewhere to write his poetry? It’s just not like that.”

What’s striking about Oli is that no matter how laid back he may seem at this table, in this café, his music and his words reflect a fanatical obsession with the way music can contemplate and convey humanity. He briefly reflects on his spell in hospital, time spent writing and collecting samples on his mobile phone. “I’m not gonna do a hospital record or anything, but in terms of inspiration – whether it’s something good or bad – inspiration can come from anywhere. The fact I’m writing in hospital doesn’t mean it’s going to be depressing. Sometimes I’ll write really depressing songs on really sunny days.” His sincerity is captivating. “It’s important for people to appreciate you poetically; it’s even more magical if they can identify with you personally. You always have to be honest.” There’s a pause while our thoughtful young singer collects himself. “Whether it’s happy or sad, it’s always truthful.” - Crack Magazine


The debut album by Bristol based Oliver Wilde is a perfect fit for the hot flushes of a summer heatwave. His woozy kaleidoscopic pop songs seem to evaporate in hot air, fading into a sea of floating light speck as they routinely blossom and wilt back and forth in an atmosphere of dizzying heat.

A Brief Introduction… doesn’t play into any tropes of summer though, instead it’s hot and muggy; an exercise in humid disorientation. Wilde’s music has a quietly abstract nature which draws a fine line between familiarity and distance, it could be categorised among the hypnagogic nostalgi-pop swells of Washed Out; Toro Y Moi; Wild Nothing etc. but there’s also something more playful and experimental at it’s core, perhaps more indebted to Atlas Sound. Not content with re-producing hazed years of lost sounds, it attempts to unfold new ones, consistently obscuring, reversing and looping his instruments into a small world of their own, a world much further away from recognition or memory traces.

At heart he is a singer-songwriter, a forlorn figure searching for meaning; but here his is a heart regularly drowned out by a world of electronics and confusion, of constant noise. “You can know too much” he sings on ‘Something Old’; underneath there is an off-kilter symphony of creaking synths, reversed guitar strums and clandestine beats. It’s a perfect encapsulation of Wilde’s niche, his voice lilts with a standard singer-songwriter sort of clawing emotion but it is trapped in a sea of distractions, drowned out by his own machines he is desperate for a moment of clarity. Such clarity and moments of full emotional resonance don’t come neatly packaged in a nice chorus but are buried amid smoke and mirrors and noise, and it makes finding them all the more rewarding.

One such moment comes on ‘Rift’, where Wilde’s vocals emerge briefly from the fog to coo in harmony with a female counterpart, a plaintive strum drags them back to reality before being swept up again in a rush of mellifluous feedback. ‘Marlea’s Cadence’ on the other hand kicks straight into top gear, filthy overdriven shoegaze 101 riffs fuel a bit of throw away rhythm which is pleasant in its immediacy. Single ‘Perrett’s Brook’ uses tempo more effectively, with a churning melody and arid desert guitar licks providing a more memorable hook. Mostly though his songs lurk gracefully on the edges of melody, subtle intersections of sound layers which tease out their own fragile patterns and fit perfectly with his hushed reclusive vocals.

Wilde’s reserved production style is both a strength and a weakness. Offer these songs your attention and their subtleties can cast intoxicating shapes, hushed soliloquies which create their own little world, but left to grab the listener their delicate silhouettes recede easily to background noise. Even in it’s most bold moments, where whispers flower into bold psychedelic noise and Wilde’s voice makes itself known, there is more atmosphere than there are memorable hooks. Always there is a voice of soul and character rising above the noise though, and Wilde has crafted a brilliantly individual debut which while perhaps too introverted for breakout certainly labels him as a very exciting new artist. - The Line Of Best Fit


‘A Brief Introduction…’, the debut from Bristolian Oliver Wilde, is queasy and compelling in a manner reminiscent of Bradford Cox’s Atlas Sound albums. Its 50 minutes loll by in a bleary funk of drum loops and semi-conscious vocals, Wilde always sounding somewhere between the late Mark Linkous and a yawning Bagpuss. But the net result is far from soporific; instead it feels like an amble through a magical mist. When the clouds occasionally clear (i.e. when ‘Flutter’’s flittering guitars appear through the smog like gilded butterflies) it shows Wilde can do delicate detail as well as smoky ambience. - The Fly


The front cover of Oliver Wilde's album is a somewhat bizarre collage of disparate images; a rough but beautifully assembled collection of half-thoughts that instantly transfix. It's also provides one of those satisfying occasions where the artwork is a perfect translation of the music found within. Here it houses the mesmerising box of tricks that makes up Wilde's debut release, 'A Brief Introduction To Unnatural Lightyears'.

Mirroring the records hushed assuredness, the journey to its release has been a slow and steady one, with the the odd live show here and a high-profile video release there. But despite its longevity, every glimpse in to his world has delivered so much quality that there has never been a nagging doubt that he wouldn't fulfil his initial promise and deliver something very special indeed. And, it turns out, that is exactly the case. 'An Introduction' is a hypnotic and swirling mass of intricate guitars, engaging breathy vocals and splashes of warm electronica. However, in much the same way that simply studying a list of ingredients is all-but redundant without the finished dish to taste, the finer details of the album can be laid out here but they'll only ever tell half of the records astonishingly intriguing story.

The record opens in fine style, in fact the whole first-half flies past in a flurry of organic and textured loops and pounding melodic hooks. Splashes of white-noise bolster the full-bodied effect of 'Curve (Good Grief)', while 'Perretts Brook''s sonic attack is a glorious clutter of languid vocals and thumping percussion.

'Something Old' reins things in a little with its laid-back groove and endearingly pretty instrumental backdrop. The acoustic refrain that drops in mid-way through, before giving way to an electronic-infused coda, is jaw-dropping both in its inspired simplicity and stunning delivery.

These quieter, more spacious, moments are less prevalent than expected. So, somewhat surprisingly, it's the more dense and vibrant tracks that actually drive the record forward. 'Marleahs Cadence' is sunshine-filled garage rock of the most heart-warming nature, while 'Walter Stevens Only Daughter' is a heady mix of rolling bass lines, layers of guitar feedback and a whole load of pent-up energy.

The high-tempo, more care-free tracks are an aural delight and they drag out a much needed balance to the whole album. However, despite their rare showing, it's the more refined moments where the true skill and magical craft of Oliver Wilde is best exposed. The beautifully formed 'Pinch' and the barely-there enchantment of 'Rift' create a stifling sense of atmosphere, slowly crawling along like a single droplet of sweat down the back of your neck on a detestably hot day.

It's within these abrasive shifts of pace and temperament where this record really comes alive. Songs rise and fall like the most lucid of fever dreams until the lines are blurred to the point where it's not us, the listener, that is in control. We're watching these scenes play-out around us and we're utterly lost in them.

For all its woozy melancholia, the record never recoils into solemnity. It is head aches rather than heartache that are explored and Wilde looks to his deepest consternations and twists, pulls and examines them until he reaches a point that may not be an understanding, but is, at the very least, an acceptance of what it means to stay afloat in a world that is so easily drowned in.

A truly remarkable debut. - Fake DIY


Bristol-based independent label Howling Owl Records have been churning out some incredible releases over the past year. From the Spectres to The Naturals, the label is widely regarded as putting Bristol firmly back on the musical map. Their latest release comes from Oliver Wilde - once a shy, acoustic singer/songwriter, he's transformed himself into an electronic downer-pop forerunner that sees his debut album as one of the most anticipated to emerge from the city in recent years.

By day, he works at RISE Records - a hub of the Bristol music scene, where you'll see him welcoming customers with a huge grin and quietly passing on Elliott Smith B-sides. A Brief Introduction to Unnautral Lightyears has been a long time coming and after a series of appearances at festivals such as Fear of Fiction and Dot to Dot, it's safe to say that the excitement for this album can be well and truly felt throughout the city.

Opener 'Curve' transports us to a hazy daydream, full of repetitive electronic drums and soundscapes before Wilde tackles your demons with distorted lyrics such as "You can't admit your happy, maybe you shouldn't be" before shaking your senses, wailing "But you wouldn't know". Finishing with the same looping electronic soundscapes and drum machine kicks as the beginning, 'Curve' gently rips apart your heart before piecing it back together in a style Elliott Smith would be proud of. Unbeknownst to you, Wilde has managed to gain access to the kind of feelings you like to keep hidden; even from yourself.

Where 'Curve' leaves you silently mystified, single 'Perretts Brook' wakes you with an abrupt electronic thrash that could easily make it the indie-sleeper hit of the summer. Building up to a surge of obscure of wandering bass, synth-heavy reverbs and teamed with gut-wrenching vocals, the fragile female harmonies during the chorus make it all the more enticing. This is the kind of bedroom production you wanted after first hearing the title track from Sparklehorse's It's A Wonderful Life. The album continues in a mirage of delicate acoustic picks, reverb-fuelled drums and clever song structures, with Wilde using his unique vocals as the conductor to an album full of wandering ideas - piecing them all together to make a perfect match.

Where the first few songs evoke a somewhat blissful melancholy response, 'Marleahs Cadence' awakens every sense with its thrashing guitars, uplifting opening and an almost sing-a-long chorus; this is the 'pop hit' of the album, if you will. Eyes closed, the song takes you to a hopeful place that leaves behind the regret Wilde has conjured up through the previous tracks.

'Pinch' showcases Wilde's undeniable maturity as a songwriter. Stripped back, with only a few quiet guitars to keep his vocals company, the song proves that not much is needed when these kind of lyrics are involved. A woozy sigh of "Imagine clouds to walk upon, while you look for that special someone. Be clear on what it is you want" effortlessly produces gorgeous imagery, with its execution allowing Wilde to leave behind any sort of song writing clichés. It could be likened to early Atlas Sound or even a more stripped-back, male Warpaint.

The album continues to produce gem after gem, as each song flows perfectly onto the next. Full of repetitive, distorted instrumentation you'd think that they would all start to sound the same but Wilde has managed to craft an album of unique integrity. 'Happy Downer' opens with grating, industrial sounds that are soon smoothed out by the warmth of Wilde's vocals before album finisher 'Twin' moulds all of the albums influences into one perfect offering.

As striking as it is beautiful, on A Brief Introduction to Unnatural Light Years Oliver Wilde has crafted something truly unique. Where one song will carry you to a car, with your hand catching the wind as you drive along, another will question those emotions that were buried deep in the back of your mind long ago. So rich in it's output yet so sparing of frills and over-production, Wilde has managed to produce an album that will stand out from any genre whilst still maintaining a clear structure. Original and affecting, it's the lyrical honesty and experimentation with an array of hypnotic soundscapes that not only make this one of the most exciting debuts to come out of Bristol in a while, but one that deserves the attention of anyone that likes the sound of swooping, indie downer-pop with a melancholic euphoria. - Drowned In Sound


We've written about a couple of Howling Owl artists, including Spectres and Towns, but Oliver Wilde is our favourite yet. And his debut album A Brief Introduction to Unnatural Lightyears is one of the best we've heard so far this year, hovering somewhere near our Heavenly 7 where the likes of Daft Punk, Disclosure, Toro Y Moi, Savages, Tyler, the Creator, Jensen Sportag and Jessy Lanza currently sit, looking down on Kanye West, going, "Nyer-nyer, we made better albums than you!"

Not that Wilde, who moonlights as an assistant in a record store in Bristol, would be so loud or bold or rude. He must be a nightmare to deal with in the environs of his day job, if his singing voice is any measure. He sings in a woozy, breathy murmur. Don't get us wrong - we love it. We just can't imagine being able to hear it in the shop.

Everything about him and his music is woozy, and hazy, with a side order of crackle and fuzz. It's folk as performed by Kevin Shields with an arsenal of lo-fi gadgetry, or whatever the laptop bedroom producer equivalent of "arsenal" is. Possibly laptop. Think Nick Drake fed by MBV's sonic kiss. First track Curve (Good Grief) is a slow, locked groove featuring Wilde's dippy dream of a voice, like an indie boy poisoned by too much sugar. On Perrett's Brook he sounds intoxicated and the unexpected chord changes have the same effect on the listener. When the bass and drums come in halfway, all heaven breaks loose. It's like hearing a classic Creation Records single from the '90s at 18rpm, shoegaze reduced to exquisite sloth. Flutter is eponymous, the sound of butterflies in the stomach. Something Old is typical of what's on offer here: it's humid, sticky, like something left out in the sun, hot to the touch and warped out of shape. Just call it the low intense humming of beauty. Or if you want it straight, it's acoustic electronica, with a lo-fi lushness and a lustrous chord progression. You get the impression Wilde knows hundreds of the buggers (he's already got enough songs for album two, so not that much like Shields at all, really). "You can know too much": we typed that previous sentence just as he sang that line. Creepy, but in a good way, in the way that A Brief Introduction to Unnatural Lightyears creeps up on you and engulfs you with its heady sweetness.

The buzz: "I've had [the album] for months and I can tell you now that it is astonishing."

The truth: Ever wondered what My Bloody Valentine would sound like if they were a solo folkie? Wonder no more.

Most likely to: Make you realise. - The Guardian


Forgive the title, which seems to be some kind of pretentious analogy about menstruation: Bristol songsmith Oliver Wilde’s second LP is as dreamy and gorgeous as they come. Part distortion-laden guitar warmth, part dappled electronics, the likes of ‘Pull’ – a hypnotic mix of acoustic guitar, strings and electronic drones – and the lethargic, mellifluous ‘Rest Less’ are what you imagine Beck might end up with if he swallowed an entire pillbox of Xanax. The equally ridiculously titled ‘Stomach Full Of Cats’, meanwhile, soars by on gloriously giddy, swirling synths, like Deerhunter at their most doe-eyed, while ‘Say Yes To Ewans’ is a dusky caress that finds Wilde’s vocal at its spine-tinglingly ethereal peak. Truly magical stuff. 8/10 - NME


Discography

A Brief Introduction To Unnatural Lightyears LP - July 2013 (Howling Owl Records/Believe Digital)

Airplay : Perrett's Brook (BBC Radio1 & 6), Curve (BBC Radio 1 & 6), Flutter (BBC Radio 6)

Photos

Bio


“They get it when I put the deer mask on”.


This is a typical line from a conversation with songwriter and off kilter recording artist from Bristol, Oliver Wilde. Referring to a recording session with a friend’s band, he’s had them standing in running baths and slammed doors at them in the dark to eek out the perfect performance. It makes you wonder what he does when he’s recording himself.


Whatever it is, his melancholic, introspective, delicate and unconventional disposition has resulted in a recording constructed from blind honesty and humility in the shape of a stunning home-grown debut album ‘A Brief Introduction to Unnatural Lightyears’ out in July.


Brought up in the Wiltshire valleys and inspired by his great troubled heroes such as Nick Drake, Elliott Smith, R. Stevie Moore, Mark Linkous and Daniel Johnston, it lead to an appreciation for reclusive melodies, experimental chording and intimate poetry whilst holding tight to some of the more traditional writing aesthetics.


Evoking the delicate ghosts of his never met heroes Mark Linkous and Elliot Smith washed through with the woozy widescreen dreamscapes of Deerhunter and Atlas Sound, Wilde’s debut LP is melancholic, beautifully compelling and offers up as the perfect introduction to his introspective and honest sound.


Describing his own serene musical style, Oliver Wilde scratches his temple and delves deep.
“Downer pop? Tinsel rock maybe? Lo-fi glitchtronica?”.
Before we can probe further, he’s distracted by a commotion from the bathroom.
“You’ll have to excuse me, I think the bath is still running..”