Three albums, no, four albums, three or maybe four albums that have passed this way in recent times….
O’o – Spells (InFiné) – A fresh release, another refreshing release, a new mini album from experimental-pop duo O’o. They’ve just unveiled the first single. the album itself is out in May and follows on from their rather excellent 2022 debut Touche. Pleased to say the French twosome are back with more of the same, this latest set of quietly beautiful songs are as deliciously positive as things were last time around. Spells is once again released on the rather impressive InFiné label (home of the excellent Uto), the first glowing taste is the aforementioned rather bright polyphonic treat of a single Moho, a track that gives you more than a good idea of where the two of them are going with this latest six track album.
You have the single down there, we have the whole of the new album here, Spells builds on that rather beautifully unique way of making music the two of them have with their songs and their crisp textures, their details, once again it is about the inviting detail. They sound kind of playful, it is an almost delicate weave of electronic flavours, all very clean cut in the best possible way. Once again a less is more minimal (but never too minimal) approach to their art. Seductive, textured, sensual, a bewitching set of images, moods, places, spaces, the warmth of a Prophet 8 enriched by human voices. Dreamy flower buds, tips of fresh musical growth, new shoots ready to burst, experimental richness but always about the songs, always structured. Once again a deliciously subtle alliance of Mathieu Daubigné’s compositions and Victoria Suter’s delicate yet strong voice. Is it electro-pop? Is it pop, it feels deeper than pop usually is, luminous, quietly beautiful, witchy, modern forward thinking art rock maybe? Art Pop? The art of gently seductive beguiling bewitching noise.
“There are undeniable affinities between the duo O’o and its ornithological namesake, the Ō’Ō of Kaua’i, a bird endemic to Hawaii. Before the species became extinct in the late 1980s, the Ō’Ō was known for the delicate melody of its song and its mysterious harmonies. All it takes is a simple internet search to hear it, a “cry from the heart” that reaches us and sounds like a reproach. If the unfortunate Ō’Ō is now history, life has only just begun for the French duo….”
Six tracks, these pieces, these six songs, definitely songs, six songs that do sound like spells cast – “Originally from the southwest of France, Mathieu and Victoria met in high school, in Agen. They shared a passion and a few references: on their turntables they often played the same records, composed by traditional musicians as well as electronic pioneers. After a stint at the Bordeaux Conservatory in opera singing, Victoria moved to Barcelona. When Mathieu, a self-taught musician, found her there in 2017, the idea of a collaboration came naturally”. – They cast a mystery, a tale that hints of a story yet to be fully revealed, only time will tell? Beautifully intriguing, rather different, as we’ve said before of previous O’o releases. they are a delight – delight is is a word that does need repeating in this review, they and both delicious and delightful, there’s a devil in the detail. once again the detail is the key, the richly uncluttered details of the textures, that and the actual songs, the beauty found in the beguiling nature of the songs, devil, catch me if you dare….
Spells is released on May 5th 2023.
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M-Opus – At The Mercy Of Manannan – M-Opus have these gorgeous moments, these gorgeous arms out wide slices of what you might call proper prog rock, like this bit here two thirds of the way through their tiny epic of a fourth track, To The Other Side, where they’re taking us soaring through valleys. Right now they’re sounds a little like later 70’s Deep Purple, no bad thing, that slight hint of progressive funk, I suspect they would take it as a positive comment it we were to call the Dublin band old school. That bit there sounds like a more than healthy slice of king Crimson flavoured goodness, mostly M-Opus are a defiantly melodic “proper” prog rock band. There’s nothing revolutionary going on here, there doesn’t always have to be does there? Surely sometimes it just needs to be like this doesn’t it? There is, so we’re told, some kind of concept going on here, some imagined discography of albums from imaginary years, apparently this is the album they imagined they had released in 1972. Most of it sounds more like the early 80’s to these ears, apparently they have previous albums that they imagine they released in both 1978 and 1975, seems like they’re going back in time with this third album then although this one still sounds more like the mid 80’s and bands like Jadis or Ark and nowhere near as gloriously dangerous as the high-wire things Van Der Graaf or Genesis were doing back in ’72. Do rather like it, it is an acquired taste (as most good things are), probably something for those who like their prog to be of a more traditional nature rather than too progressive. Find more details via Bandcamp
Angel – Once Upon A Time (Cleopatra) – Talking of acquired tastes, legendary (or should we say cult? both probably) U.S rock band Angel return with what the press release claims is a “brilliant, melodic and supremely powerful new studio album”. We’re told the album features eleven brand new songs (plus three bonus tracks on the CD version), all written by Punky Meadows, Frank Dimino, and Danny Farrow. Meadows proclaims, “We are super excited by the release of the new album. We had a blast recording it, and the band is cookin’! It has everything Angel fans expect – epic songs, power pop, heavy rock n’ roll, and it’s also deep with lots of surprises! Can’t wait for our fans to lay their ears on it!” Not sure about the “lots of surprises” bit, unless you count how good they’re still sounding after all these years as a surprise? Let’s be honest, most of the once great 70’s hard rock bands still out there and still making records are more often than not way way past their sell by date. Nah, there’s no surprises here, no musical revolutions, this is exactly what we want from Angel, this is very big and very very hard rock 70’s style in the very best of larger than life ways, this is as overblown as it can be, this is bigger than giant American A.O.R hard rock, proper stuff! This is Gloriously dumb, this is fist pumping American stadium rock, are they still all dressed in white? Is Punky Meadows still pouting for you, me or Terry Bozzio? Punky, Punky, give me your lips to die on… no let’s not dwell on the pootched out succulence of his insolent pouting rictus or anything else Mr. Zappa might have said, that was then (and it might well have been a little dubious as Zappa often was) and this is Angel right here and right now and if 70’s flavoured hard rock is your things then yes! And the title track Once Upon a Time An Angel and a Devil Fell in Love is an epic slice of bombastic AOR hard rock goodness. Both the title track and the indeed the whole album is gloriously over the top, they follow it epic thing that is Once Upon A Time with a classic power ballad called Let it Rain. Are you sure this is 2023? Angel arecoming on like a cyclone, or a thunderstorm or some kind of weather related situation that eventually will let the sunshine in, if there is a surprise here with this new album then it might just be that Angel are sounding as good as they ever have. We have everything here, over the top power pop, bad weather, massive harmonies, bombastic drums, massive riffs, massive slices of classic American rock radio friendly AOR, massive everything, this is far more than just another day (daydreaming away). No guilty secrets or pleasures here, Angel, just like Starz, have always been a damn cool band, they’re still rocking at least six times on this latest album. Angel
Chaos and The Cosmos – Our Song – the breezy opening track The Singularity sets the rather easy on the ear tone for the Seattle band’s new album, Chaos and The Cosmos are a little different, the musical vehicle of composers Paul Langer and John Allday. We’re told the band draw on decades of musical exploration, playing in bands of varying genres including southern rock, experimental/avant garde, new wave, alternative, prog, surf, with trip hop and Americana sprinkled in. Astronaut Scott Kelley played Paul’s solo album, High Plains Drifter, on the STS-103 international space station in 1999, thus foreshadowing Paul’s space-themed future. John co-founded the Seattle-based prog band Moon Letters, which has recently released Thank You From the Future (2022). Here they’re playing with lush indie pop, the vital difference is the the the fact that the band features a string trio. Phil Hirschi, cello, whose credits include playing in version two of Mahavishnu Orchestra, appearing on the albums Apocalypse (1974) and Visions of the Emerald Beyond (1975). Rachel Nesvig, violin, has worked with rapper Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, The Who, Father John Misty, Sir Mix A Lot, Evanescence, Naomi Judd, and Chris Botti. Aleida Gehrels, viola, has toured with Macklemore and has worked with Father John Misty, Perfume Genius, Abney Park, and Amy Grant.
Chaos and The Cosmos have a lush indie pop alternative rock thing going on, a thing that kind of comes flavoured with hints of Mercury Rev, Electric Light Orchestra, a ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space Spiritualized thing or two, and more than anything else, a warmth helping of Flaming Lips colour. Chaos and The Cosmos have a lush sound, a clever sound, a refined sound, warm, composed, very easy, maybe a little too easy, a little too nice and polite? Does is need a little more dirt under those fingernails? A little more danger? A bit more bite, a risk or two? Bandcamp / website
And while we’re here see as April has arrived, here’s this month’s Spotify playlist for those of you who do the Spotify thing. These carefully curated monthly playlists build and evolve as the months do