Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Album Review: "am" by Ovlov- "A virulent strain of moody badass rock"

Ovlov's debut album "am" should have a warning label on it that says "If wearing headphones use extreme Caution as this record may cause musical vertigo and temporary hearing loss." It will undoubtedly plant a smile across your face as well. When I heard the first track Grapes I thought of My Bloody Valentine, specifically the song When You Sleep. It is not that the songs sound alike but the thick guitars on the edge of dissonance coupled with kinda sad boy / girl vocals (Sadie Dupuis guest vocals) pulled my mind in the MBV direction.  Comparisons can both be a blessing and a curse but in Ovlov's case this particular observation is only a compliment. In fact the MBV feel does flow throughout the album but more covertly than overtly. Many of the songs have shoegazish elements but most divert straight into potent forms of grunge punk and even indie pop (well sorta). I can't help but think that if Kevin Shields was a skater kid his sonic persona might sound like Ovlov. Let's just say that Ovlov's sound is full of musical textures and genre's mutated into a pretty virulent strain of moody badass rock.

As the full force of grungy punk of songs like The Well, Nu Punk and Blue Baby may numb you into submission, Where's My Dini? has the languid grungy indie stupor (and loveliness) of Nirvana, Weezer and Speedy Ortiz. It is lush in it's distortion and heavy in sweet bitter memories. Milk too feels angsty and wallows in fuzz as much as off kilter melodies. The guitar break is a freaking beautiful cacophony of lead lines floating in and out of the massive mess of noise, the notes bending as if the player's fingers are tied to the tremolo with rubber bands. Really Bees and There's My Dini! both have a particular distraught and heavy feel and kind of remind me of the Pixies in a structural / tonal sort of way. Really Bees descends into a hellish brew of double time beats and fury. It feels like a street fight, unrelenting and crazy. There's My Dini! is a dynamic feast of full on attacking guitars and spartan sections with sweet open sounds- lyrics that can sound like maniacal ramblings in one instance and melodic vocals in another, "you sit me by and wish me all the worst... run and see me high."

The last track The Great Alligator appropriately ends as "am" began with a lot of dissonant rhythm shifts steeped in a blend of abstract shoegazey indie bliss that eventually builds (or descends) into a wonderful cluster of distorted leads and squealing feedback. There is much to love on this album. Steve, Theo and Jon Hartlett have crafted sounds that can easily put your brain in a dense distorted (and grungy) Seattle fog.
Robb Donker

Ovlov is:
Steve Hartlett - guitars/vocals
Theo Hartlett - drums
Jon Hartlett - bass

Andy Chervenak plays bass on track 7
Devin McKnight plays guitar on tracks 5 and 9
Sadie Dupuis sings on tracks 1, 2, 4, and 8
Michael John Thomas III plays guitar on track 7 

You can stream "am" here: Ovlov Bandcamp

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