Album Review: Gloria de Oliveira & Dean Hurley – Oceans of Time

[Sacred Bones; 2022]

If Oceans of Time were to be released in another format, it would undoubtedly be a series of scents and perfumes. A collaborative album between Gloria de Oliveira and Dean Hurley, the record came about over the course of a year without the two creators ever speaking, instead exchanging ideas through a sort of musical penpal-like relationship. Despite being separated by the Atlantic Ocean they seem attune to each other; de Oliveira’s vocals are breathy, light extensions of the synth and string vehicles Hurley lays down. The effect is dazing and fragrant.

Oceans of Time’s best effect is experienced when falling into it as a whole, a misty world to get a little lost in. de Oliveira’s vocals call out like a half-remembered voice from a dream; the German-Brazilian’s lyrics are often just out of reach and only occasionally do words or phrases protrude the surface enough to be able to discern. It’s hard to tell if Hurley worked around de Oliveira’s vocals first (or vice versa – or something in between since de Oliveira’s solo music shares a similar tone to that here) but either way the backdrops seem the ideal setting for her dreamy tone. A frequent David Lynch collaborator, Hurley carries forward this influence: there’s a Twin Peaks-like allure to the lucid “Something to Behold” with it’s wispy drum machines, while “Ashore of the Cosmic Sea” and “All Flowers in Time” are not far off contenders for a spot on stage in The Bang Bang Bar.

As a whole the effect of getting wrapped up in the grey-pink atmosphere definitely holds merit, but the downside is that songs bleed into one another all too easily after a while. Drumless moments like the ethereal “Seven Summits” or the crystalline “Hanging Gardens” are quite lovely in themselves, but sink into the background when surrounded by more impressionable swells and tempos. Particularly in the album’s latter half, “Astral Bodies” and “In the Tenth Year of Forever“ (both lasting just over two minutes) float by like passing scents that don’t do much that other tracks do here better. 

Still, amidst all the fog and aromas, certain moments do pique your attention. “Eyes Within” feels entirely comfortable stretching out over five minutes, its shimmering expanses sounding like they could go on for days. Lush strings give both “Intro” and “Picture of a Picture” a glacial edge, the latter in particular riding a slowburn effect as a bass drum pulses in the background and bells ring somewhere in the distance. 

“Im Nebel”, with its plainspoken German vocals and pallid synth pulses is perhaps the moment where de Oliveira is at her clearest and most direct, her words made that bit starker thanks to waves of strings ebbing and flowing around her. Final track “Further Than the Stars” feels like a dreamy end credits score, glistening and vapourised guitar notes lost in the simmering swells of synths. Tracks like these might not linger particularly in your head as moments you replay, but they arouse your attention when playing the album through, offering moments to engage fully and intently, and perhaps get even a bit more wrapped up in the album’s allure. 

Like testing perfumes at a department store counter, each of the tracks here have an attractive, if not enticing smell, but coming away from the spritzed mists of many a bottle, you will be hard pressed to remember anything beyond the fragrant moment you were standing in. Oceans of Time — though an admirable feat of musical minds coming together and gelling seamlessly — has enough to tempt, but perhaps not quite enough to stick in mind.