While pretty much all music is derivative, and to a greater or lesser degree inspired by what has gone before, every so often a band appears that shakes up the status quo. OKOformed in 2010 out of the Dublin
collective Bottleneckcertainly doesn't hide its influences on its debut recording, but its musical paint box of electronica, free-jazz, noise, dub, drone, funk and ambient sounds dishes up a colorful collage that dares to be different.
Darragh O'Kelly's dreamy electric piano, Shane O'Donovan's cymbals sighing like gently lapping waves and Shane Latimer's lyrical bass line from his eight-string guitar introduce "Shoehorns and Axelgrease." The tune's laid-back ambiance punctuated by turntabalist/sampler DJackulate's subtle touches sounds like a cross between Joe Zawinul
's "In a Silent Way" and Californian experimentalists I Heart Lung
. The sound gradually swells to an epic, alt-rock improv storm before taking a left turn into trippy dub terrain characterized by the contrasting elements of sparse electric piano and tumbling, jazz-inflected drumming. The curiously compelling potion dissipates slowly, but the spell has already been woven.
A keyboard drone underpins the ambient, chill-out track "Totes Awky Momo," accompanied by a constant cymbal pulse and spacious clusters of bass notes. It segues into "Under Over," where funky turntable, bass, riffing keyboard and lively drums combine in deep collective groove. O'Kelly's grungy extended solowith O'Donovan's propulsive waves an energizing forceflows with a logic that bridges the gap between Jan Hammer
and Bojan Z
. The music ebbs, quietly ushering in "Cell Cell Cell," whose buoyant drums ride roughshod over the tune's white noise/drone underbelly.
The low-key dub, airy electric piano and sci-fi squeaks of "Axelgrease" move seamlessly into the appropriately titled "What's the Concept?, an arhythmic mélange of keyboard minimalism, distorted sounds and spacey abstraction. "Oblong" picks up the baton with its stoner's ambiance. A distorted voicepart lowing cow, part chanting monkgroans in the depths as guitar and DJackulate on kaval and then tenor saxophone slowly spin a gently lulling melody that, once birthed, then steadily dissolves.
A fatter rhythmic muscle propels "Magnet Paste," which sees OKO fuse contemporary rhythms with swirling, prog-rock keys that evoke an earlier era. The sci-fi soundscape of "Unbelievable Sushi" stems from noodling keys and electronics, and a faint percussive rattling. A keyboard motif fades in, revolving like a sacred mantra as bass guitar and drums lend support. The momentum is short-lived, however, as the notes of the motif melt together and fade out, just as surreptitiously as they'd arrived.
Clocking in at around forty five minutes, the music unfolds like the soundtrack to a mildly hallucinogenic dream spiked with edgy dramaturgy. As such, it's best appreciated uninterrupted, with headphones; either that or blasting out of stack speakers. The contrasting textures and juxtaposed rhythms create just enough tension to make the sonic journey as unpredictable as it is absorbing. Should appeal to Rastas, improv-heads and space rockers alike.
Track Listing: Shoehorns & Axelgrease; Totes Awky Momo; Under Cover; Cell Cell Cell; Axelgrease; What’s The Concept?; Oblong; Magnet Paste; Unbelieveable Sushi.
Personnel: Shane Latimer: Eight-string guitar, electronics; DJackulate: turntables, sampler, tenor saxophone, kaval; Darragh O’Kelly: keyboards, synthesizers; Shane O’Donovan: drums, percussion, sampler.