This is a rare blessing — an album new and unexpected and which feels like it was made just for you, right now, where you are. Öona Dahl’s Morph is a florid eruption of sound, of music that captures the unique feeling of this moment, of a world pent up by a year of cloistered existence and then suddenly throwing the window open and running blind into the sun.
>Morph is Öona Dahl’s second album, representing a profound leap from 2017’s Holograma. Several of the song titles on Holograma exposed a vulnerability — it’s annoying to be an amateur psychiatrist but how else can you interpret “Who Am I” and “Tell Me I Belong”? The intervening years and the critical success attached to Holograma and records like “Love Is All We Need” (Wellhead) and Godtripper (Watergate) have lead us to this point — an album without filler, sharp enough to cut glass and with the boldness of a self-assured songwriter. It’s a sound perfected.
An album without filler, sharp enough to cut glass and with the boldness of a self-assured songwriter. It’s a sound perfected.
Morph begins with the pure ambient electronica of “15 Years Old,” a track that sounds like it would fit on the shelf with some of the records that would show up on Warp or FAX +49-69/450464 in their first 10 years — or on Hallucienda’s own precursors, for that matter. There are real human connections here between Morph, Öona Dahl and the era of ’90s electronic psychedelia and the best of what that period offered. But it’s much more than an expansive record collection that is breathing life into these tracks. Morph veers into areas of deeply emotive techno, modern takes on IDM and electronic pop all while stubbornly refusing to fit in any of EDM’s hermetically sealed boxes.
Morph begins on a somber note and then the icy solemnity melts away. In “Remember,” you can actually hear it shaking off death — spiritual, metaphorical, literal death. In its place is unrestrained joy — joy in life, joy at being alive, joy at being able to live again, joy in music, joy in the sound that you’re making and joy in being free. And the song where it reaches its apotheosis is appropriately called “Free” — an electronic ballad with a bleary but optimistic tone. The sound is dense, and that’s true for most of Morph.
Unlike many electronic music albums it’s difficult to believe a single producer made all of this — that every stray cymbal and lingering note comes from one creator rather than a large band. An exception is “Serenity,” another collaboration featuring Kirsty Hawkshaw (best known from Opus III). It’s also the first track on the album that leads with a straightforward 4/4 beat, and I think the best candidate for the first single. Kirsty’s voice is doubled, layered lusciously over an invigorating rhythmic pulse. The second half of the album is mostly (but not entirely) instrumental, featuring tracks like “Look Right Through” and “Lucid” that are adventurous and often epic in feel if not in scope.
You might not find it hard to believe that more albums are being made today than at any time in history. That’s certainly true of electronic music as well. Everyone has a novel in them, they say, but you might not want to sit down and read some of them. When I look at my own listening, I rarely go back and listen to the albums I like front-to-back anymore. This is a clear exception. Öona Dahl’s Morph isn’t an album that’s listened to as much as an event that’s experienced or a thing that happens, landmark, a milestone, a movement.
Photo: Galen Oakes
Öona Dahl: Morph LP (Hallucienda / May 2021 / Digital)
1. Oona Dahl: 15 Years Old (04:41)
2. Oona Dahl: Remember (07:02)
3. Oona Dahl: Angel (04:43)
4. Oona Dahl: Free (03:23)
5. Oona Dahl: Serenity feat. Kirsty Hawkshaw (07:07)
6. Oona Dahl: Look Right Through (05:51)
7. Oona Dahl: Lucid (04:55)
8. Oona Dahl: Morph (04:55)
9. Oona Dahl: Sparkle & Fade (05:40)
⚪️ Disclosure Statement: This record was submitted as a promo by the label.