Oahk - Tiny Husks

27 Jul 2022 - Thorsten

Shoegaze, Ambient, Indie | Deciduous Records | Release date: 01 Jul 2022 | Favorite song: Future Homes

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I am writing this review while driving to Berlin with my lively group of juniors, shortly about to embark on their last summer as school students, full of that wonderful vibrancy of youth. On my air pods I am listening to a record that fascinates ever since my dear friend Josh told me about it, roughly a month ago - Tiny Husks by Oahk. The latest record of that one-man-project from New Hampshire, which is also really exciting and vibrant. But its topic is quite the opposite of my current environs: the premature loss of an unborn child.

One thing that is very clear when listening to Tiny Husks is that Bryan has surely listened to a lot of music – among them being bands like Planning for Burial, Brand New, VAST, Blueneck, Declan de Barra and Have A Nice Life – to give you a short list of references. The Flenser is generally the label he should be on, if you ask me, he would fit perfectly into their roster (so how about it Jonathan?) as the basis for his music is also shoegaze in all its radiant glory and mixed with a certain knack for dragging beats and intersecting noise bits. To me this record is a brilliant middle between Below the House and Deathconsciousness - both records that have in some way refined what the Flenser-sound really is.

Songs like ”Great Monarch” and ”Future Homes” have so many layers to them that it is hard to make out which are the most important ones, for example will you often encounter very nicely picked semi-acoustic guitar motifs, which can be over-layered with open but harsh riffs later. One moment you will hear foreshadowing speech samples, then field recordings, then again ominous chants or other tiny minuscule elements somewhere hidden in the mix (or also very present) that give this impeccable mix of shoegaze, ambient, drone and indie-rock an unimaginable grandezza which can only come from pain itself. A sound that is so big, that is so perfect that it simple can’t be born from joy. One might go so far as to say that in that sense, the record could be compared to The Bends, with the difference that this record deals with a much more personal pain because …

Unfortunately this feeling is oh so true. Without going into detail too, Tiny Husks is Bryan’s way of coping with the loss of an unborn child. Lines like ”Why? A Life… A Flame Unknown” (which is the complete text to the opener ”Lost Backwards”) or ” to burn a new memory / To plant a new tree, to build a family…a future home / You haunt my life, so small, so haunting….a fear looking back / Just a fear looking back / The sky fell you haunt my life everyday” (from the wounded web called ”Future Homes”) make it pretty clear how haunting and crippling this loss really is – it not only kills your present but also your future, as there is no need to build any home anymore. If you check out the sparse lyrics to ”Past Home” that becomes even clearer and in a way, even more haunting. But the title track shows that there is still hope in Bryan: ”You tiny husks / Stop haunting us / Such tiny husks / A part of us / Two redwoods grow inside of her […] Safe inside / Inside somewhere with you” because he and his wife share this seemingly all-encompassing love for each other so that there is nothing but love for the life taken prematurely and that he will keep the memory safe.

So this record is part of the healing process but also part of a confession of timeless love – no remorse, no grief, no sadness can come between Bryan and Cynthia, but it connects them even more. Sad, yet wonderful how the record explains all of that in eight songs. ” I’ll still find a way to you / You stitch me up to mend” (from ”Burying Bone”) might be one of the strongest songs of love I heard in a long, long time.

When I look around this train compartment, I see their beaming faces looking forward to a week of fun and joyful learning (yes, they will, without noticing). Bryan and Cynthia’s child cannot partake in these events – yet the love the couple has for it instills it with the same kind of love these teenagers have gotten from their parents. Tiny Husks is a way to cope with loss – but it’s also a celebration of love. Lest the valuable things be forgotten.