Aviator is a musical project featuring former Cast/Shack bassist Pete Wilkinson, and Mark Neary, who was a member of The Hours. Liverpool-based Wilkinson quit Cast in 2015, a few years after they reformed. “It was a mutual parting,” he told XS Noize. “I was not in good shape, I was drinking a bit too much, and the darkness of my moods was getting in the way of the others enjoying the band… I wasn’t enjoying it anymore… Cast is dear to me, and the friendships are dear to me, so it was a very confusing time and when you add alcohol and whatever to that, it’s a toxic ball of confusion and nonsense.” With a catalogue of his own songs growing, Aviator was formed as his creative outlet and platform to collaborate with other gifted musicians.
Although a new band to many, Omni is actually the fourth album from Aviator, recorded during a difficult and testing time for Wilkinson. The emotions filter through noticeably on every track here; uncertainty, dissatisfaction, confusion and sorrow interspersed with dazzling light and growing hope shining through the recesses. Opening The Darkest Light sets the tone; a grinding rhythm meeting lush acoustic chords, and sparkling, atmospheric guitar notes as we hear a surprising confidence in the far-reaching vocals, well suited to its dark, moody, dreamy ambience. From the very beginning, its sound is a combination of influences that result in something evoking early Verve, occasional reminders of the Charlatans, New Order, the Jesus And Mary Chain, and latter-day Oasis during their ‘Dig Out Your Soul’ period. But if there are any similarities to the aforementioned band, it will be because these musicians will have shared a lot of the same influences. Wilkinson may no longer be with Cast, but flavours of his old band leak into The Gift, a more urgent track where Krautrock meets The Who, and a fine, crisp production is peppered with lots of intriguing noises that ping around the surface, eventually building to a climax near the end.
The interesting percussion on Into Me demonstrate this record’s keen concentration on rhythms, atmospheres and sounds, yet it’s an LP that still builds itself on the foundation of Northern British songwriting. For instance, the heavy Beatles influence heard within the unmistakable Liverpool sound of Henry’s Place, a song with waves of psychedelic reverb drifting over it. Meanwhile, the graceful, uplifting Letter To D is like a grounded bird taking flight again, keeping with the album’s theme of finding a way out of the darkness and into the light. Keeping with the Aviator name, indeed much of Omni certainly conjures up the feeling of gliding through open skies. The organic and space-age combine on White Fly, while the laid-back The Electrician makes fine use of loops and pads, before rising into a delirious chorus, journeying into a Spiritualized-like breakdown towards the end. Drowned In Deceit’s slow, funky beats, late 60s vibes and effective electronics wouldn’t sound out of place on a Kasabian album, while the lysergic acoustic daydream of As Long As It’s Not Me recalls another great Merseyside band, The Boo Radleys.
This record benefits greatly from bright, swelling arrangements picked up from Wilkinson’s duties as touring bassist for Echo And The Bunnymen, as well as a sense of melody inherited from his time in Shack, and a dose of traditional guitar-based structure from his Cast years, while the floating musicians who also contribute to Aviator add further colour and clarity to the music. Human emotion provides the focus, as does its indie rock base, yet the atmospheres, sounds and production keep things satisfyingly varied. A psychedelic post-Britpop album is a fair way, to sum up, this record, and those who find that description appealing should definitely give Omni a try.