The moment right before a symphony begins is incredible, it feels like air and time is suspended at the mercy of the violinists or percussionists. You almost hold your breath. And then, it starts. That’s what Tin feels like. From the first chord played on a slightly out of tune piano, you’re submerged; awash with a choir’s rising and falling melodies.

Simon Lam is the brain behind Nearly Oratorio and the writer, performer, producer and mixer of Tin, an EP that before now had been shut away for two years. His debut, Showers, came out almost five years ago now and since then Lam has worked with the likes of Kllow, I’lls, Jaala, Good Morning and Slum Sociable. Now we’re given the privilege to hear Lam create expansive, yet vulnerable music that despite only sung with Lam’s voice alone, feels rich and full with haunting melodies.

Nearly Oratorio is one of those wonderful pieces of music that interweaves delicate tones of electronic music with acoustics in a masterful way. There’s no competition; the high and wavering flute in ‘Tin’ caresses the broken chord of the synth. That is the beauty throughout most of the songs, a simple, grounding chord and then from there grows seemingly infinite layers of Lam’s vocals; a synth; a keyboard. “This is about living in wanting to be submerged in your own thoughts, as it’s your safe place and where you feel at home,” says Lam of ‘Tin’.

‘Veracity’ is looped with vocals that are filtered to sound almost trumpet-like. The titillating timing makes the track the most punctuating on the EP; Lam’s drawled vocals are a beat slower than the melody and like in ‘Tin’ there’s a mechanical structure to the rhythm, but the vulnerability in Lam’s vocals and the brassy finger picking of his guitar, makes for an entirely new and organic sound. That freeness is emphasised when Lam brings the song to a slow, quiet close; just his voice and the aimless melody of a piano.

Nearly Oratorio can be mistaken for a delicate, bedroom record, but there’s so much more complexity to it’s character. ‘Occlude’ is one of the poppier tracks on the record, but amongst the drum machine and guitar melodies, is the slight patter of a bongo drum and maybe even a hint of eastern influence; his voice sounding like a wind instrument. His voice becomes all kinds of instruments. And then there’s ‘Devonport’, a washed out ballad, expansive with echoes on top of echoes of vocals.

For something that collected dust for two years, Nearly Oratorio feels timeless and current, of genres merging and gentle complementation. And considering that behind every stroke is one brain is refreshing. It’s an EP that will accompany slow afternoons, lying on a mattress, staring at a ceiling; it begs for contemplation and thoughtfulness. It’s for slowing down, and letting yourself be submerged.

Rating: ★★★★★


Nearly Oratorio’s Tin EP is available now through Solitaire Recordings.

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author: Natalia Morawski