oOoOO - Without Your Love (4 stars)

Brilliant debut album makes you shiver with fear

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oOoOO: Without Your Love

(Nihjgt Feelings)

In oOoOO (pronounced ‘oh’), San Franciscan Chris Dexter joins ††† and !!! in selecting an artist alter ego that looks like it originated from accidentally leaning on a computer keyboard. But on listening to his debut album, that moniker begins to take on a more calculated appearance: a slow groan of pleasure, or pain, or fear perhaps? Predominantly fear, as it turns out: the more you drift uneasily among its crepuscular chorales, the more Without Your Love feels like it might turn around and batter you at any moment.

If you’re familiar with the disparate tranche of artists variously bunched together under designators such as ‘witch-house’ or ‘haunted-house’ – Balam Acab, Salem, Stalker, that lot – then you’ll know the basics here: eerily distressed synth sounds, grisly treated vocals, BPM counts not so much slow-jam as traffic-jam (‘drag’ is another name sometimes aptly given to the genre).

But Dexter mixes it all up with plenty of his own flourishes, favouring a kind of zombie hip-hop flavour in his beats and basslines, and dropping in teasing flashes of melody that would be pretty if they didn’t sound like they were echoing from beyond the grave. He’s got pop songs down in his dank, dirty basement, but they’re sure as hell not getting out.

With kick drums like rumbles of distant thunder, opener ‘Sirens/Stay Here’ takes the best part of seven minutes to come alive. But when it does, it’s quite magnificent: all shimmering arpeggios and ice-cold female vocals. ‘3:51 AM’ gets to the point much quicker, before suddenly decaying after a couple of minutes, as if someone’s pulled the plug. ‘The South’ is Dexter at his imposing best; a menacing collage of subby-bass, nightmarish synth stabs, skittering hi-hats and vocals like jungle animals.

Beyond the stuff of his immediate peers, Without Your Love might remind you of the more experimental side of Deftones’ White Pony, or vintage Portishead’s capacity to spook you at a snail’s pace. Impressive stuff. And we’re not just saying that because we’re a bit intimidated.

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