(Sevens, a new feature on Aquarium Drunkard, pays tribute to the art of the individual song.)

I’ve enjoyed Oakley Hall’s work from day one, but for me, the moment that announced their arrival at something truly unique was the opening track from their 2006 album Gypsum Strings: “Confidence Man.

If you’re familiar with the fact that Oakley Hall front-man Pat Sullivan was a founding member of Oneida, then the guitar work that opens the song wouldn’t come as much of a surprise. But considering the largely Grateful Dead/Allman Brothers/Dwight Yoakam sound of the first two albums, it was somewhat of a shock. The song barrels out of the gate with an acrid, hypnotic and looping guitar line that cuts through the silence as the band comes to life in pieces behind it. When everything falls in together, the song crackles with tension.

Gypsum Strings was the second of two albums Oakley Hall released in 2006 and it was the more studious and structured of the twins. Second Guessing, the first album, had loped by on a grooving, laid-back band structure that sounded almost like a live recording in its tone. Gypsum Strings, however, sounded more like that band heading into the studio to touch up what could be done with their work. “Confidence Man” roars out of the gate like nothing on any prior releases. (Its closest companion is actually “No Dreams” from the subsequent I’ll Follow You.)

But I mentioned Sullivan’s prior band for a reason. Oneida’s fusion of noise and structured sound, with its debts to krautrock, no wave and post-rock, had been fairly absent from Oakley Hall’s repertoire, but on this song, the intensity of drone, the hypnotic beat fused with the duet vocals of Sullivan and Rachel Cox, leads the song to a crashing conclusion. There’s no proper chorus, just organized chaos within a swirl of distortion – sweet, powerful, caustic and a perfect opening salvo. words/j. neas


MP3: Oakley Hall :: Confidence Man
Amazon: Oakley Hall – Gypsum Strings

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