Album Review: Shelly's on Zenn-La by Oliver Coates
Great, Based on 4 Critics
musicOMH.com - 80 Based on rating 4
When Oliver Coates released debut album Towards The Blessed Islands back in 2013 it seemed as if he was going to be the latest name to join the growing group of composer musicians to be grouped under the modern classical label. It was a forward-looking album that explored the many possibilities of the cello, an instrument he has played since childhood. Yet the release of second album Upstepping in 2016 saw this view being swiftly adjusted.
With cello as the central component of his work, he's collaborated with Jonny Greenwood and Mica Levi on their scores to Phantom Thread and Under The Skin; was artist-in-residence at the Southbank Centre where he also conceived of and programmed the "Deep Minimalism" festival in 2016; and played a pivotal role in creating the sound of Radiohead 's latest album A Moon-Shaped Pool. Solo releases have seen dynamic reinterpretations of John Luther Adams, Squarepusher and Iannis Xenakis. 2016's euphoric Upstepping constructively entangled the trajectories of avant-garde and club music, melding the dancefloor pressure of house, techno and 2-step with complex layers of heavily processed cello, vocals and synths.
A cello makes a pretty good hiding place. It's got a wide body and a dusky tone that doesn't stick out when paired with other instruments. And until now, that's kind of what British cellist Oliver Coates has been doing: hiding in plain sight, obscured by the shadows of more famous names. He played on Jonny Greenwood's scores for The Master and Phantom Thread, and made crucial contributions to Radiohead's A Moon Shaped Pool.
As a cellist and performer, Oliver Coates is probably best known for his collaborations. His work with Mica Levi on the score Under The Skin resulted in some of the most chilling, evocative compositions for film in recent memory. His bowing is always precise and measured, even when it skitters across jumpier passages. That control is on full display in his contributions on Radiohead's A Moon Shaped Pool, arrangements of John Luther Adams, and in his own cello compositions, which range from neo-ambient meditations to experimental fusions of modern classical and electronica.