|Featured Band (13): Witchy Artist oOoOO Googles Soundtrack Vacancies|
|Written by DJ Space|
|Thursday, 27 January 2011 23:00|
oOoOO (pronounced “Oh”) is a solo artist - occasionally duet - from San Francisco who should be writing movie soundtracks. "I’m just trying to do my thing," Musician and producer Chris Dexter Greenspan told Notion magazine. "Not too concerned with where it ends up fitting in." He quotes "mostly other music" and "San Francisco" as musical influences.
"I’ve played in bands before, but its really hard to find people who want to do exactly the same sort of thing, so I started making music on my own," Greenspan explained to Wow magazine. "oOoOO started just fucking around with samples, a drum machine, and a cheap synthesizer."
"oOoOO insist that in the age of the internet, names – oOoOO – and biographical details are less important than visual and sonic codes," The Wire magazine reported.
"The musicians fronting this movement... say they're simply speaking to an audience raised on the web," Wired magazine wrote in its February issue.
"Nothing's un-Googleable to a 14-year-old," Greenspan commented.
"The best way to crack the code is to just insert your own meaning," Greenspan disclosed to Vice Spain. "For me it’s just a random succession of vacancies."
"I Really wanted to remain anonymous forever but since my name's already out there, I just want to set the record straight: "Christopher Dexter Greenspan" is the name I use to sign legal documents," Greenspan told Dazed Digital. "That's about it. I've never given an interviewer my full legal name, let alone asked to be referred to by it. Don't even know how anyone knows it. Every time I see it in print I think how pretentious people must think I am going around calling myself that….I started playing music around 4 or 5 years old. oOoOO's been around almost 2 years now."
"I really just don't like band names and didn't want to have one," Greenspan added. "But it kind of backfired on me because everyone's always asking me about the name."
"Search engines are for □s," Wired magazine concluded.
"On the internet, new-band buzz travels faster than the speed of sound. So how can emerging musicians maintain their indie cred as they amass fans? Create a completely unintelligible moniker," Wired magazine explained.
"A growing number of artists - largely from a dark electronic genre known as witch house - have found that by using symbols in their name they can make it to the top of playlists even if they're not ranked at the top of Google results," Wired magazine continued. "For those in the know, the names create a parallel universe... tracking down one artist can lead to dozens more."
"It's a highly engineered musical underground hidden in plain sight," Wired magazine added. "By creating what graphic novelist Warren Ellis calls a lexical darknet, artists are able to keep their music from circulating too far and wide."
"John from Salem [the band] told me I should just call myself Lil' O, but I think there's a pretty well known rapper form Houston called that," Greenspan joked with Dazed Digital. "Lil' O could be a name for a child of O from "the Story of O." Or oOoOO could represent all of her offspring."
"I come from a miserable place where people work all day at jobs they hate, look old by the time they’re 30, and drink really bad beer," Greenspan revealed to Wow magazine. "I live in San Francisco. I live here because I thought it would be cool, and it’s really far away from where I grew up."
"The bands getting attention right now in San Francisco write songs that are all very beardy, straight, and testosterone-sounding, which I find kind of strange, because I associate psychedelia with the unconscious, dreaminess, and feminine cool," Greenspan told Vice Spain. "I think my sound is feminine, dark, I guess, and reluctant to reveal itself."
"I don’t think I could make music like this anywhere else. America is a raw and violent place," Greenspan commented to Notion magazine. "If I lived somewhere where doctors made public-funded house calls, I’d have a very different outlook. America is brutal and creates a lot of anger and sadness for intelligent people, especially if they’re poor. Its infuriating to look at all of the rich people in this city spending however many hundreds of dollars on dinner every night and I don’t even have health insurance right now because what I do isn’t valued."
"San Francisco isn’t miserable, but it’s pretty dull," Greenspan continued to Wow magazine. "The whole city works for Google or some software start up. It’s full of 'creative' people that are imaginative in a very practical, boring sort of way. It’s the kind of place where anything could happen at any moment, but probably won’t."
"I can just walk around aimlessly looking at doorways (San Francisco has the most beautiful, tiny doors) and listening to traffic all night," Greenspan explained to Dazed Digital. "But I'm not really into nightmares or horror so much as I think sounds that are kind of unsettling or melancholic are good backdrops for beautiful melodies. They seem more desperate and sweet by contrast."
oOoOO's first, self titled CDR was released by Disaro Records in early 2010.
Disaro is a Witch House / Drag electronic music label from Houston, Texas, USA, founded by Robert Disaro and James Weigel.
oOoOO's current label Tri Angle - which was established by Robin Carolan (of the 20JFG music blog) - and Disaro Records are recognized as flagships of the Witch House “movement.”
“Witch House” (Juancarlitos House, Drag) is a mostly electronic music movement of 10's, found of memory manipulation, and which typically incorporates elements from various music styles, often has a slow tempo and a lo-fi aesthetic meant to evoke a dark, sinister, occult, or juancarlitos mood.
"A darker mood has descended on the music scene now, courtesy of the gothic, woozy beats of Salem and the movement they’re calling 'witch house' or 'drag'," Dazed Digital reported.
"'Drag' took its name from the syrupy, chopped and screwed hip hop of Houston-based DJ screw – vocals are timestretched to infinity (once memorably described as the sound of “Nick Cave smoking midnight cigarettes in slow motion”) and spooky synths and samples drift in and out of the flickering spotlight creating a Lynchian sense of unease and disquiet," Dazed Digital continued.
"Many of the bands from Balam Acab, oOoOO and Creep feature on ice-cool new imprint, Tri Angle, founded by Robin Carolan of the influential freak-noise blog, 20 Jazz Funk Greats," Dazed Digital added.
"I think both oOoOO and Tri Angle are working with a much broader set of influences and sounds than fit into any one “particular strand” of music," Greenspan commented to Notion magazine. "There ‘s been a tendency, I think largely because both projects are so young, to sum up the work we’re doing as part of a really narrowly defined genre. But I think my songs are all really different and the releases Tri Angle is putting out are in some ways almost nothing like each other."
"A spectral utterance from beyond the rave, this is like hearing your dance-pop past dragged up ... slowly," Paul Lester of the Guardian reported.
Shortly after the release of this CDR, a split 7” single was released with the band White Ring with the oOoOO track "Seaww."
"I put out a split 7" with White Ring on a Swedish label called Emotion," Greenspan explained to Wow magazine. "The guys who run Emotion asked Daniel [Lopatin] to do it [make the video of 'Seaww'] and I didn’t even know about it until the video was almost done. I was kind of annoyed that they asked him without telling me, but the video turned out cool so no big deal." The video of "Seaww" can be viewed here .
When asked about a Daniele Buetti work Greenspan used to personify oOoOO, Greenspan said, "The image speaks for itself better than I could."
"Beauty... That’s such an old idea. No, I don’t really care about it," Greenspan continued. "I don’t think [French poet] Baudelaire would care much about it either if he were alive. Or if he did, he would deny it. Most people don’t seem to say much that I find interesting, so what they say is unimportant to me. But the few people who say amazing things, I hope that if they ever degrade themselves enough to talk about me, they’ll have something good to say."
"I really like things that are 70 percent beautiful and 30 percent ugly/abrasive. People with beautiful faces with a lot of acne, or really unhealthy looking dark eye circles are like the hottest people," Greenspan commented to Notion magazine. "Things that are all beautiful are kind of boring."
"I’m not much of a visual artist myself," Greenspan explained. "But I like to associate the music with images that make me feel the way the music does."
In October, oOoOO was included on a compilation charting ‘"A New American Underground," Fuck Dance Let's Art - Sounds From A New American Underground (K7 label). The compilation was intended as an attempt to capture a snapshot of a what's turning out to be an exciting time for new music in the States.
oOoOO’s self-titled EP was also released through Tri Angle Records in October.
"I just finished material for an upcoming Tri Angle Records EP," Greenspan revealed to Wow magazine last June. "Me and Lisa (vocalist) are working on a live set. It still sounds a little shaky. But I’m hoping we’ll be playing some shows pretty soon. I’m about to remix a new Visions of Trees song, which I’m super excited about. Some other things are in the works but are still too early in the development phase to really talk about."
"It’s [an EP coming out with Tri Angle] not important as a way of getting music out into the world anymore, but for me it’s nice to have an object I can look at and hold that is a symbol of all the work I did," Greenspan continued. "It’s much more satisfying than a handful of mp3s in an itunes library."
"On his eponymous EP, San Francisco-based producer, oOoOO (pronounced “Oh”) takes the distorted, ghostly bones of hip hop and infuses a new sensuality and pop sensibility, reflecting his love of the boundary-pushing end of Top 40 fodder from Nicki Minaj to the sparse robotic funk of Britney Spears’ 'Blackout' album," Dazed Digital reported. "Quite simply, it’s the sound of the apocalypse set to a disco beat."
"As though to confirm that slow = cool, here comes a confluence of artists too geographically scattered to call a scene, currently being described using a word that connotes not just a leisurely pace but a sense of being pulled under: drag," Paul Lester told Guardian readers. "It's also been called zombie wave, haunted house and witch house, or screwgaze because of its conflation of 90s hip-hop recording techniques and shoegaze sloth, and we even had a bash when we decided last year that Salem were illwave or downtempo crunk."
"Whatever the appellation, these artists are doing some amazing stuff," Paul Lester continued. "Haunted house and drag are probably the most apposite terms because the music sounds like ghostly apparitions of old dance tunes, only at half-speed."
"As a corollary to Hypnagogic Pop’s investigation of earlier off-limits genres – 1980s power ballads, early Acid House, hiphop – the underground has embraced the DIY tape stylings of DJ Screw, the way he was able to key music to the specifics of a high while manipulating the signs and sounds of consensus reality," The Wire magazine wrote.
"In doing so they have joined the dots between hiphop production styles and the surrealism in sound of experimentalists like Nurse With Wound’s Steven Stapleton, a connection that Stapleton himself has long maintained," The Wire continued.
"It's gorgeously grisly, like hearing your dance-pop past literally dragged up," Paul Lester commented. "And oOoOO – which could be a spectral utterance from beyond the rave – are leading practitioners of the form. It's basically a San Franciscan, Christopher Dexter Greenspan, doing everything, although on some tracks there are female vocals."
"I really don't like how male singing voices feel - at least not most of them. 9 times out of 10 if the first 20 seconds of a song sound good and a male voice comes in singing, its ruined for me," Greenspan explained to Dazed Digital. "But I sing on a couple of my tracks though, and I'm thinking of doing it some more."
"The songs come second to the sounds. Its not intentional really. I’m just more of a producer than a songwriter I guess," Greenspan disclosed to Notion magazine. "I really like songs that just throw in a few disjointed bits of vocal melody and float around over the sounds."
"How many times have you heard a song that sounded powerful and moving musically and then realized the lyrics were complete trash? I’m not much of a lyricist so, I try to keep the words as simple and suggestive as possible," Greenspan continued.
"oOoOO started out as a blog phenomenon and are already remixing stadium landfill like The Big Pink," The Wire magazine reported. "Their music is endlessly allusive, as piratical as John Oswald and as sensual and slowed down as DJ Screw."
"oOoOO feels like an amalgam of Stapleton and Screw, albeit with a taste for Top 40 effluvia," The Wire magazine continued. "All of the best tracks orbit the dark, sidereal side of the UK underground; Aphex Twin, Dome, Coil. Indeed 'Mumbai', with its rattlesnake beats and vocal wormholes, could almost be a rechannelling of Coil’s ELpH persona."
"In his inspired reapplication of screwed and chopped technologies, oOoOO opens timelines between Hypnagogic Pop and the present," The Wire magazine concluded. "And it turns it back to the edit, the cut-up, still the best defence against the war on culture, still as beautiful as a safety pin through the face of the queen."
The buzz: "This is like polished-up Salem." (Guardian)
"oOoOO feeds on the present as much as the past," The Wire magazine reported. "The less successful tracks are the most overt cannibalisations. 'Pckrfcrmx' reconfigures Lady Gaga’s 'Poker Face' to the point that it sounds like an uneasy bid for a commission."
"It’s followed by the death march of 'No Shore', with someone who sounds like Nick Cave smoking midnight cigarettes in slow motion while the music sighs like Nico’s Marble Index," The Wire continued. A fan-made video of "No Shore" can be viewed here .
"a good friend of mine once told me that oOoOO sounded like the score for a film scene in which a man has just walked into a crowded restaurant in Mumbai, shot everyone up, and is now walking, in slow motion, in a heavy rain, in the middle of the night, through the city’s filthy streets, crying and tortured with remorse for what he’s done," Greenspan disclosed to Vice Spain. "That’s actually where the name for 'Mumbai' came from."
"Hearts is the standout track if you're looking for an easy way into oOoOO; in fact, it stands out as a track of the year, and suggests Greenspan could make it as a pop producer if he applied himself," Paul Lester wrote in the Guardian. "Hearts," which is available on oOoOO's self-titled EP, can be listened to on oOoOO's Myspace page.
"It's dirge-disco, like Chic on downers, or sad, solemn synthpop with an early Depeche Mode/OMD-style keyboard motif and an ethereal girl-sigh of a mournful melody line, but it keeps the right side of vapid/vaporous with its crisp machine clatter and bold but drowsy bass," Paul Lester wrote.
"Seaww is another one that raises sorrow to tragic proportions, only this time there's a horrorcore edge with its eerily treated vocals that make the track sound like a love ballad crooned by a swamp monster or something," Paul Lester continued. "Whatever, it's utterly heartrending."
"No Summr4u again features a girl on vox," Paul Lester added. "It's not a sampled soul diva as you might expect, but in a way there is crossover here with dubstep, with the meticulous studio-processed beats, and R&B, with the vocals mangled and manipulated to create a sense of dislocated desire." Listen to NoSummer4u here.
"Greenspan is apparently a fan of Ludacris, Young Jeezy, Nicki Minaj and Usher, as well as outfits like Broadcast who are more outwardly experimental," Paul Lester further commented. "Absorbing it all, he has come up with a new type of sepulchral dance music that takes chillwave into chillingly beautiful gothic territory."
"I know I said it [San Francisco] is dull, but the landscape itself isn’t," Greenspan explained to Wow magazine. "It wasn’t built by systems analysts, and some of the energy and emotions that people from the past carried is still here and its palpable. Sometimes I walk around late at night and try to get lost in parts of the city I don’t go to very often."
"Sometimes I have to sit down at a keyboard and force myself to play around until I hit on something I like," Greenspan continued. "Sometimes a whole song just appears in my head and I have to get home right away to record a sketch before I forget it."
"Catherine Deneuve in Repulsion. Laura Dern in INLAND EMPIRE. Fire escapes are really exciting to me right now," Greenspan told Dazed Digital about his inspirations. "I'm inspired by any music that sounds good on a fire escape in the middle of the night in the middle of the summer."
"Fuckt is one of my favorite records, for sure. And Balam Acab is amazing, too. But I feel just as much of an affinity with Kylie Minogue," Greenspan continued. "I like to think maybe at its best, my music is something like pop music for the unconscious…Many of the aesthetic elements people are attributing to "witch house" - spirituality, paganism, symbolism - I have no interest in."
"There's actually a beautiful, long wooden rosary hanging upside down from a nail in the wall in our living room. But that's less about actual Satanism than something I keep to remind myself of how much I've progressed in getting over my inner Catholicism," Greenspan added. "Until I was maybe 14 - even though I no longer considered myself a Catholic - the sight of the symbols of the Church being perverted could make me nauseous."
"I listen to so much and so many different kinds of music it’s difficult to pick out only a few bands I feel close to," Greenspan commented in his interview with Wow magazine. "There are a few people making “underground” music that I feel has an aesthetically similar spirit to my own, but I feel just as close to Christina Aguilera and the Carter Family."
He discussed popular music. "The sound [of pop music by Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, etc.] is like a magical thread running through the banality of life on community college campuses and at freeway offramps in Toyota Corollas," Greenspan continued. "The songs are like slave songs for a world where everyone thinks slavery was abolished and the people don’t know they’re slaves. So the music is full of longing, but in an unconscious way. The lyrics might be about wanting love or wanting a new pair of jeans, but they’re secretly about wanting freedom."
"Usually I do [have a musical obsession], but right now, noI haven’t really heard a lot of stuff in the past couple months that I’m really excited about."
"Fully expect to issue an utterance of awed wonder in keeping with Greenspan's project name when you hear his music," Paul Lester concluded in the Guardian. "[It is] most likely to... haunt you long after you've heard it."
Although oOoOO is hyped as part of the Witch House / Drag movement, Greenspan really is "just trying to do his own thing." As Greenspan says, he "didn't like band names and didn't want to have one" and for him the name oOoOO represents "just a random succession of vacancies." Surely, isn't the really intriguing mystery here the identity of the vocalist on many of the tracks whom Greenspan refers to as "Lisa" and is elsewhere known simply as "Miss Lisa?"
Witchy band, Drag artist, or neither of these? Whatever the reality, through a combination of Greenspan's musical skill and Lisa's sublime vocal talents ("Hearts" and "Summer4u"), oOoOO is producing impressive ambient, chillout music and creating an ethereal sound which is worthy of most movie soundtracks - and one which any ardent Googler can enjoy in his or her lounge.
|Last Updated on Saturday, 29 January 2011 00:10|