Tara Jane O'Neil The Cool Cloud of Okayness

Label
Orindal Records
Released
17th May 2024

Monorail Album of the Month

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Format Info

LP - black vinyl

The Cool Cloud Of Okayness drifts over from across the cold pond with a stilling warmness we’ve come to recognise in the music of Tara Jane O’Neil. O’Neil always manages to find hidden chords and hidden resonances in the way her voice weaves in between them. TJO is one of those players who sounds like no one else, instantly recognisable within a few seconds of an opening sound wave rippling through the air. On The Cool Cloud dOf Okayness she’s reached a new peak in her practice, something comforting, sure, but also powerful and stirring, working in collaboration with a host of players and fellow travellers. Along the way of this astounding 9 track album O’Neil evokes Broadcast, United States Of America, Mary Hansen-era Stereolab, Tortoise, Meredith Monk and a whole universe of beautiful sound dripping down from the stars. 

Seven years after her last “proper” Tara Jane O’Neil album and following a whole host of side projects and detours, this cool cloud is exploratory, full of sailing grace and a restraint in the ensemble playing that lends so much power. There’s an orchestra of instrumentation sparingly deployed and arranged in stunning counterpoint to O’Neil, who sits with infinite patience and presence at the centre of the music. Tracks like We Bright and the stunning closer Kaichen Kitchen, with it’s weeping guitar figures melting into being, portray a spirituality and humanity that’s nothing short of tear-invoking and spine tingling. In other places, as on the more rhythmic Seeing Glass or Curling, there are shades of her former work with Rodan albeit with a more hypnotic, locked-in groove and space that feels like late 70s Can with an angel on vocals. 

Tara Jane O’Neil is almost always a shoe in for album of the month but The Cool Cloud Of Okayness might be her best solo work to date and thus is a contender for album of the year for us, too.

“Many of The Cool Cloud of Okayness’s nine tracks were developed in the time between the wildfire and the rebuilding, between lockdown and reopening. TJO, her partner (dancer, choreographer and frequent collaborator) Jmy James Kidd and their dog sheltered from the storms in the high desert of Southern California and the deep suburbs of Louisville, KY. In these locales were discovered the improvised bass guitar figures to Kidd’s dance which transformed into songs during pandemic isolation, then brought to the ensemble of drummer/percussionist Sheridan Riley (of Alvvays), multi-instrumentalist Walt McClements, and on a couple, guitarist Meg Duffy (of Hand Habits). They build and gleefully destroy and rebuild again. There is joy in the ensemble’s shared queer identity- an identity that refuses to be agreed upon. This record too challenges any easy genre or definition. This record is sculpture and portrait of times and loved ones gone past. It is spiritual and it is psychedelic. TJO’s deft production and rock-solid bass playing hold the center, and her spectral guitar and singing voice carry the message.”