Dave Hartley's second album under the Nightlands name refines the hallucinatory, gospel-flavored ambient cocoon he devised on 2010's Forget the Mantra, in addition to his day job work with The War on Drugs. The song titles on Oak Island tell the whole story—"So Far So Long," "Time & Place," "Nico," "So It Goes" and "Born to Love" are all self-explanatory when pinning down the record's mood.
Those tracks form the core of the first two-thirds of Oak Island, with "Time & Place" and "Nico" being extraordinarily beautiful ruminations on the womb-return blues once perfectly termed in Laurie Anderson's "Born, Never Asked." "Born to Love" is a stunner, opening with a guitar riff swiped from "Beast of Burden," before piling on the horns, congas and pulsating '70s Barry White beat to an atypical and anthemic song structure.
The two other tracks that propel Oak Island into the stratosphere are "Rolling Down the Hill" and "Other People's Pockets." The former is a short blast of what sounds like a DJ mixing a scratched record of ancient German Gabber-house with experimental post-disco a la Talking Heads' Remain in Light. On an album already remarkable for unexpected twists and turns, "Rolling Down the Hill" is where Hartley ditches his influences and finds his own muse.
And that turns out to be the redemptive "Other People's Pockets," which climbs to a dizzying climax from its spare beginnings.