Field Mouse, Cosmoline
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Since 2009, Ovlov’s transmissions have been sporadic, but they’ve always been impactful. The band’s early run of EPs established the Connecticut four-piece as a modern update on a certain strain of northeastern indie-rock. By the time the band’s debut album Am was released in 2013, Ovlov was getting comparisons to Dinosaur Jr. and Sebadoh tossed in their direction, and while those elements were certainly present in their sound, Ovlov always let catchy pop hooks slip into the mix too. On their third album, Buds, those pop elements are more pronounced than they’ve ever been before.
“I would like to think that the songs on this album are all pop songs at the core,” says Steve Hartlett, the band’s songwriter, guitarist, and vocalist. On first blush, Buds won’t shock longtime Ovlov fans, but on repeat listens, those fuzzy, crushing guitars start to feel less like the central focus and more of a delivery system for Hartlett’s grander ambitions. “For the past few years, the number of rock bands I’ve been listening to has grown smaller and smaller,” says Hartlett. “Unfortunately, it’s the only genre and style I’ve ever really felt comfortable writing. That’s probably mostly because I write everything on a guitar. Don’t get me wrong, I love rock music—there’s nothing more satisfying than playing an E chord through a Big muff as loud as the amp will go—I just want to slowly progress into writing the most perfectly poppy of pop songs.”
Recorded with the same producer and engineer who has handled every Ovlov album, Michael John Thomas III at his Black Lodge Studio in Brooklyn, Buds is the latest document of Ovlov’s slow and sturdy evolution. But this time, the band’s become even more of a family affair. Though Steve’s long been riffing alongside guitarist Morgan Luzzi, the band was started with Steve’s younger brother Theo on drums. This time around, their older brother Jon joined them on bass—and their dad, Ted, even stops in to rip a sax solo on “Cheer Up, Chihiro!” Considering the Hartlett brothers learned how to play music together, it’s a full circle moment as they all come together in service of making Ovlov’s most fully realized statement yet.
Opening with “Baby Shea,” Hartlett lovingly reflecting on the bond’s formed at the beloved Brooklyn venue Shea Stadium, the album starts on a note of bittersweet appreciation. “Just as the majority of my songs are about the loss of either life or love, I think the majority of the songs on this album are as well,” says Hartlett. With a pounding backbeat and thick layers of guitar fuzz, Ovlov show they’ve lost none of their vigor in the years since TRU. But while loss permeates the record, there are moments of celebration, like “Cheer Up, Chihiro!” which sees Hartlett finally finishing the Spirited Away-inspired song he’s had kicking around since the Am days but could never get just right. “It’s always been one of my favorite songs that I’ve written, most likely because I can’t help but picture scenes from Spirited Away whenever I play or hear it.”
For Buds, Ovlov once again turned to Jordyn Blakely of Stove and Smile Machine to add additional vocals to the composition. But a couple chance meetings also brought a couple new voices to the fold. After meeting at Shea Stadium, Hartlett became close with Erin McGrath from Dig Nitty and invited her to sing on two of the album’s tracks, and a random Instagram message from Alex Gehring of shoegaze icons Ringo Deathstarr culminated in her contributing backing vocals to three songs as well. The result of this communal effort is a record that’s harmonious and powerful, as Ovlov work through a heavy few years with some heavy riffing and hearty hooks. Buds is dense and dark, but Hartlett’s assertion is dead-on: these are just big, bold pop songs. It’s still Ovlov, but a more assured version, one that isn’t so shy about putting their ambitions on full display.
Disco Doom – the Switzerland-based band led by Anita Rufer and Gabriele De Mario – present a new single, “Patrik,” from Mt. Surreal, their first new album in 8 years out September 16th on Exploding in Sound. “Patrik” opens with a siren-like note, giving way to glitching synth and resounding percussion. De Mario’s vocals are urgent over white hot guitar: “I hear this new sound // distracted and so beautiful // eject this tape // replace, memories, in the future.” It puts Disco Doom’s keen ear for intricate, juxtaposing rhythms and sonics at the forefront. “The song was written and arranged directly in the studio. Its immediate recording was important to us to not lose that nervous feeling which we were fascinated by,” says Disco Doom. “We wanted to keep the freshness of the new idea in the recording.”
Rufer and De Mario began working on Mt. Surreal back in 2018, with the final version worked on from 2019 until late 2020. Though Disco Doom are indeed a four-piece – with Mario Kummer taking up drum duties during the recording of the album, and Mathias Vetter joining as their bass player in early 2021 – the recording was characterized by the work Rufer and De Mario concocted together, as a duo, making the very most of what lay around them, exploring what they could do with their guitars. Initially, Rufer and De Mario recorded with the band in a studio in France, but those sessions didn’t feel quite right and were scrapped, a learning experience which would eventually go on to shape the entire record.
The resulting album is brimming with frayed guitar, intricate rhythms, compelling vocals, and fidgety percussion. As presented in its first two singles, “Mt. Surreal” and “Rogue Wave,” its sprawling composition is one you can get lost in – a strange and peculiar journey that’ll wrap you up deep inside its intoxicating world, where lyrics leap out at odd moments, where a hook grabs just when the whole thing threatens to combust. Across the record, there’s an endless swaying between light and dark, form and formlessness. The songs shift between direct passages and then burrow their way into exploratory, experimental rabbit holes. Mt. Surreal offers an exhilarating ride, as well as an ambiguous look at society, touching upon themes of nostalgia and detachment in this strange new world we currently encounter.
Vocalist Rachel Browne on new album 'Meaning' - "A lot has happened in the three years since our last record Episodic came out. While there is far too much to say about it all in one place, we wrote this album anyway. What are the broad strokes, you ask? It's more or less about the end of the world and all of the ways that it seems to be happening, but also about making peace with former selves and growing as a person despite the feeling of global entropy. Also: strange internet versions of our friends and selves, bouts of insomnia and picking through the dreams that followed, the importance of forgiveness, and creating meaning in a world that increasingly feels like total chaos. What is the function of art in a place like this? Is anything we make going to last? I am not sure, but here are 11 songs looking for the answer. What I do know is that art connects us to each other and to our feelings and our selves. It is a life raft, and I hope that we can all continue to put it into the world, appreciate it, and share it indefinitely."
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