June 24, 2013

Album Review: oOoOO's Without Your Love

A flavor of the month genre if there ever was one back in the late Aughties, witch house -- much like chill wave -- has become a black eye descriptor when talking about the the bands that brought the dark-hued sound to light, as those haphazardly pinned under the label like Oneohtrix Point Never and the Knife have quickly shed the ambient bastardization of droning rhythms, dub, hip-hop and shoegaze spliced and pieced together long before they became popified in recent years by the likes of CHVRCHES, Pictureplane and Purity Ring. Buzzworthy scene definers SALEM haven't even been heard from since their 2010 debut King Night, and as for its other torchbearer in oOoOO, a.k.a. the moniker of San Francisco producer Chris Greenspan, it's taken three years for him to finally get around to releasing his formal debut album. The death of a genre notwithstanding, Without Your Love actually arrives in just time, as it's a highly involved yet rewarding listen that should mostly be considered for its own merits free of hype or preconceptions tied into what came to define a sound for many of his peers before him.

Inventing blacklit R&B nuances in his own way works to Greenspan’s greatest benefit here on Without Your Love, as the tracks roaming around escapist melodies, down-tuned vocals and nocturnal soundscapes produce the LP’s most immediately captivating moments in a year that’s surely to be owned in that regard by rising deep house revisionists Disclosure or the After Dark 2 compilation (“Stay Here,” “Without Your Love,” “Mouchette.”) Other areas of Without Your Love aren’t as easy to sink your head into regardless of the perpetual nightfall, as Greenspan layers the black canvas with intensely dense, murky ambiance and slow-motion trap ("3-51," “Crossed Wires,” “Misunderstood”) that dictate the album's moody dissolve better than anything else, yet pass by too quickly before being able to fully immerse yourself in their ornate corners. The tradeoff, however, is still far more ear-striking than a track like "The South" which is built off heavy bass drops and hyper click effects that resemble something far less wicked from SALEM's past prime than oOoOO itself.

Those few missteps aside, there's no doubt that Without Your Love is for the most part a product which can easily reposess a unique style for Greenspan to call all his own as of this moment, and whether or not his scene counterparts follow suit will be determined in time. What tends to trip up the San Francisco producer on his first proper full-length, however, is that there are one too many new ideas working their way around his cold ethereal template, and more often than not, these concepts aren't allowed enough time or room to fully exhale throughout the listen (with the sole exception being album closer "Across a Sea," in which Greenspan steps away from ProTools in favor of a jilted piano ballad.) Despite its fashionably late arrival, the debut from oOoOO has enough promising spell-minding matter between its complexities to keep Greenspan's black magic candles' wick lives extended until he figures out how to hone in his craft.

oOoOO's Without Your Love will be released June 25, 2013 on Nihjgt Feelings.

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