Album Review: “Smoke Signals” by Brighton-based singer/songwriter, Oktoba

Oktoba, Chris Athorne of Brighton, released his debut full length, Smoke Signals, in October of this year. It’s a rich blend of folk and Americana with subtle pop influences. In 2014, Oktoba introduced himself to the world via his Tales and Shadows EP. It received immediate attention and before he knew it, he was recording Smoke Signals at Tim Bidwell’s (Kate Walsh, Jack Watts, Fink) Clockwork Owl Studio in Brighton. This newest work is fully armed with Athorne’s versatile voice which can fluctuate between pop and folk given the context, gentle instrumentation including everything from harmonica, dusty drum patterns, and pedal steel.

The opening cut and title track welcomes the listeners to enjoy the rest of the album. “Smoke Signals” is a song about leaving, adventure and following the signs in the smoke that tell you it’s time to go. With this song come images of dusty roads, sparkling campfires, and family goodbyes. It’s a wonderful introduction and sets the tone for the rest of the album.

A favorite of mine is “Aeroplane.” It’s a sweet tune with tender and poetic lyrics:

We’re just stones thrown into the ocean’s arms

A feather in the wind, a carnival.

 

that sway and fly above whistles, harmonica and subdued guitar strums.

Athorne really showcases his diversity as a musician on this record. Tracks like “Aeroplane”, “Smoke Signals” and “Wind Water Fire Stone” (which features Bo Lucas on vocals with Athorne) highlight his abilities a folk singer/songwriter. On the contrary, tracks like “On My Mind” (featuring Phoebe Freya) have a more R&B, almost gospel sound. The in-studio version of “On My Mind” is stunning:

Or take “Run”, the most up tempo track on the record. It starts slow but picks up momentum as the instruments layer in. A track about regret, looking back on those times in your life when you could have done things a bit differently, done things bigger or better.

When you walked you should’ve run, run, run.

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 As a whole, Smoke Signals is a collection of stories about life, love, and reflection. Each song is a chapter in itself, decorated with Athorne’s lovely lyricism and beautifully layered instrumentation. Smoke Signals is out now and can be purchased on iTunes or Bandcamp.

 

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