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Beat Report, Vol. 5

Electronic Music Reviews

oOoOO — oOoOO EP
Released by Tri Angle Records, 10/04/2010
San Francisco’s own oOoOO makes a smart debut on the New York/London-based Tri Angle imprint with its self-titled EP. Following a split 7” with White Ring, the EP shows a further exploration of that spectral “witch house/drag” sound that’s been floating around the net of late, perpetuated by the likes of Salem and labelmates Balam Acab and Stalker.

Christopher Dexter Greenspan, the man behind the oOoOO moniker wears his heart for all to see here — unsettlingly sweet, distorted vocals hover above reverb-drenched hip hop rhythms that would hold their own against the big money. Indeed, “Hearts” begins like any good song from R&B singer The-Dream, but it’s The-Dream with an aging analog synth, a handful of opiates and a newfound appreciation for darkwave. Intriguing? Yes.

“Mumbai” sounds like a chopped-and-screwed bit of Skull Disco, but it’s Skull Disco made pleasantly accessible. Everyone from Love Spirals Downwards and Slowdive to Shackleton and Demdike Stare spring to mind over the course of these six tracks, and it’s a fine association to make during a record that errs on pop. I’d wager our man oOoOO grew up on 4AD and is at this present moment rolling through our mean streets blasting The-Dream’s “Love King” from a blacked-out Caddy. A surprising EP, and one for your haunted house.

Squarepusher: Shobaleader One: d'Demonstrator
Released by Warp Records — 10/09/2010
Squarepusher: keeping us all guessing since 1975. Much like Richard D. James, Tom Jenkinson adopted that cheeky, crazed genius, “If you don't like it, you can get the fuck out of my house” mentality that’s paved new frontiers in electronic music for the past two decades.

While there was a coherent thread of rhythm and melancholia that joined many of his earlier Warp works (think 1994’s Port Rhombus EP and 2003’s Lost In Translation lullaby “Tommib”), the past couple years have shown Jenkinson’s more erratic side. 2008’s Just A Souvenir showed a departure from the melodious breakbeat of yore, while last year’s Numbers Lucent was a more blatant exploration of Jenkinson’s jazz roots.

Shobaleader One: d’Demonstrator follows the same trajectory, harnessing the easy listening arcade-jazz house of Numbers Lucent into further oddball terrain. This is robo-funk-muzak, the sort of thing you might hear in the elevators of the future — think The Fifth Element in all its neon, four-armed glory. At the heart of it all is a robot with Ben Stein’s monotone.“Synchronize your soul / Baby, that’s how we roll,” the vocoded voice croons flatly on “Abstract Lover,” a mellow, measured moment on the record. I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry, but it’s the best song on Shobaleader.

Elsewhere, the LP is dense with semi-ironic, meandering guitar interludes and reckless 90s riffs. I’m almost certain “Endless Night” was based off a riff I last heard on every Seinfeld episode. Metal samples are employed with reckless abandon on “Maximum Planck.” In essence, this sounds like a big postmodern middle finger. Tom is having a bit of fun and after this many years, who can begrudge him it?

Sideshow — Fink Dubs EP
Released by Aus Music, 10/11/2010
Sideshow is the project of Fin Greenall, best known as the mind behind one-man acoustic act Fink. Venturing away from the singer-songwriter format, Greenall joins forces with bassist Guy Whittaker and Tim Thornton on the Fink Dubs EP, infusing a handful of melodies from last year’s Sort Of Revolution with sparse, spacious dub goodness. Fink’s dulcet, bluesy vocals perform incredibly well for dub here, particularly on “Sort Of Dubolution,” where Greenall’s timbre sounds surprisingly reggae. “Don’t Look Down In Dub” strips the vocals completely, making for a bass-heavy stadium rock interlude to close off the EP.