Album Review: The Last Dinosaur – Wholeness

The Last Dinosaur – Wholeness

Ambient | Orchestral | Baroque Pop

82%


Jamie Cameron strives to be the kind of artist that never writes the same song twice, a fact that was abundantly clear while listening to his latest release as The Last Dinosaur. In some ways this new record feels worlds apart from its predecessor. Avid Belwood readers may be familiar with my love of 2017’s The Nothing, which remains one of the finest albums that’s ever graced my humble inbox. A light born of darkness, a thing of haunting beauty that came from a place of harrowing loss. It exudes elegance from its most opulent orchestration to its most fragile folk, and each track builds upon the rest to make a body of work that feels hopeful and comforting.

Rather than a life-affirming album about death, Wholeness is a bittersweet musing on life. Rather than an accessible and cohesive record that takes you on a journey, the album feels deliberately lost and aimless, intentionally inscrutable, shifting formlessly like water over the fleeting 26 minute run time. It takes a more ambient approach, sampling everything from humming wires and typewriters, to children playing in the park and a dog’s footfalls tapping across the floor. Fusing curious sounds seamlessly with the wistful classical instrumentation, while still understanding the importance of empty space, it’s always pushing for the next nuanced and thought provoking experiment to further tweak the formula.

Not every experiment pays off; spoken word sections are often jarring at the best of times, and the stream of consciousness on ‘In The Belly Of A Whale’ even more so as it disrupts the quiet subtlety of the record. Elsewhere however it’s great to see Cameron branching out with his compositions. On tracks like ‘The Wheelbarrow’ and ‘Shower Song’ he seems to draw music from the mundane murmurings of the world around him through sheer force of will. It’s like watching new life grow from nothing in the palm of your hand and then watching it fade into dust and slip between your fingers. The imposing orchestral swells and rumbling drums of opening track ‘Wholeness And The Implicate Order’ manage to feel mournful and triumphant in equal measure. There are some serious Talk Talk vibes from the sax on ‘Spirit Of The Staircase’, and despite lacking a proper name, ‘Untitled Piece For Piano And Viola’ is perhaps the most gorgeous track I’ve heard yet from The Last Dinosaur. 

While certainly not the most accessible release of the year, it’s an album that will keep you coming back if you give it the time and attention it deserves. With the music so often walking a bittersweet tightrope between bleak and beautiful, and with so much left up to your own interpretation, it’s a record that really benefits from repeat listens. Each time you press play brings something new. 

Wholeness wanders, drifts, and throws up walls, and feels all the more relatable for it. For most of us life is messy; especially so for those bearing the scars of past trauma. There are days when the slightest thing can tip you over the edge and leave you wondering where you’re headed and what even really matters in your life, and likewise finding joy or beauty in the most insignificant of things could be what instils the resolve in you to keep moving forward. Life is a muddled melting pot of uncertainty, joy, emptiness, confusion, hope and longing, one that we only drift through for a brief time before realising that everything is temporary and there are no real answers, and this album is no different.