After a busy 2010 and 2011 that saw the release of four albums, M. Ostermeier has stayed occupied while curating the Tench label and fulfilling his duties as co-owner of Words on Music. Simultaneously, Ostermeier released an album in 2014 with his band Should, featuring Tanya Maus and brother Eric Ostermeier. Lucky for us, Ostermeier has returned from a four-year solo hiatus with Still, a brilliantly composed album that solidifies our love for Ostermeier’s true sound.
The thematic departure from 2011’s The Rules of Another Small World is apparent, even from a glance at the two albums’ track listings: the human-centric subjects and pronoun-driven titles of Rules’ “Sunlight on My Desk” and “I Took Out Your Picture,” have been replaced by cold, natural concepts, such as: “Stasis”, “Congruence”, and “Inertia”.
Keeping this in mind, we can surmise that while listening to Ostermeier’s prior discography gives his audience the impression that when he employs fuller melodic movement in tandem with richer harmonies, he is depicting human activity; or rather, at least capturing the presence of someone – somewhere. With Still, there is an escalated emptiness, with fewer elements reassuring you that you are not alone in the cold, vast universe.
In its sound, Still leaves more open space than any of Ostermeier’s releases since 2010’s Lakefront, making an effort to further restrain his characteristic reticence. The album's second track “Division”, an exchange between a quiet set of longing chords struck on the piano and a soft, pervasive rustling, exemplifies Ostermeier’s weaning from melodic motion. At other times, the only lyrical movement that can be perceived is in the already-faded memory of last quiet chord struck on the lingering piano.
To chart out the emotional narrative, you have to think back to the last note heard. In this way, Ostermeier creates a vacuum that readily fills itself once it is offered repetition of the familiar, although during many periods no such offer is made, and you are left alone in near-silence.
It’s promising that M. Ostermeier is back with solo work; it would be fantastic if the next two years were as fruitful as 2010 and 2011, especially given the ominous grandeur heard in Still.