Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Oscillation-Out of Phase

"It's been quite a while since bands used spacey sounds aggressively. Though the drones, vibrations and noises that imbued so much of psychedelia and Krautrock with their mystiques haven't fallen out of style - if anything, a wide range of different artists use them - these days they're almost always used to inspire the same thing: a kind of heady, peaceful remove.

It would be reasonable to assume, then, that an album consisting of almost nothing but these spacey signifiers would drift narcoleptically from beginning to end, without any shocks or rumbles. But Out of Phase, the debut album by Demian Castellanos's new project the Oscillation, does almost the exact opposite. Castellanos is certainly enamored of Krautrock's serene foreign synths, and psychedelia's myriad wobbles and vibrations, but Out of Phase is imposing, menacing and exhilarating just as often as it is far out. A good deal of this has to do with studio mixing. The album-opening "Visitation" is more of a crescendo than an actual song, but everything is mixed up so fiendishly high that by the time the track's ever-building wall of noises suddenly vanishes, it makes quite a powerful statement. Elsewhere, so many rays of energy flare off the bass, keyboard and vocals in "Violations" that the track sounds like it's reaching critical mass. Even the the more sedate interludes ("Distant Transmission," "This is Nowhere") have a sonic forcefulness to them that's hard to ignore.

But for all the studio mastery on display here, it's Castellanos's pop instincts that make Out of Phase so impressive. The high-voltage squiggles and intergalactic echoes on "Gamelan Mindscape" owe a lot to the rave-up created by its two guitars, while the overmiked dub craziness of "Liquid Memoryman" pairs well with the grungy drums. Every track, including the tremendous 10 minute closer "Visitations (Exit)," is very efficient; the riffs are never featured for longer than they should be, and Castellanos's solos, even at their most abstract, make sense at a gut level.

Admittedly, Out of Phase is hard to digest the first time through. But anyone who's intrigued by the inherent possibilities in those cosmic sounds will be only too happy to let it grow on them, because apparently, there is adrenaline in space, and Castellanos has found it.

have a mild paranoid fear that possibly Demian Castellanos has snuck into my loungeroom and scoured my music collection for all my favourite bits to take home and meld into this sprawling masterpiece. It's got many of the things I love somehow genetically modified into a cohesive whole. The overriding atmosphere is one of psychedelia: Velvet Underground noise freakout '67; Primal Screamadelics '90; NEU! Motorik wave '74; meandering Pink Floyd noodle '68; Ride and Chapterhouse shoegaze blissout '91; the massed reverberating intimacy of Mum '01; Stereolab dronescape '94. Add to that some dub production on acoustic instruments to make King Tubby proud, and the obligatory punk-funk-Gang of Four references and this is music coming at you from every direction.

Things are particularly ear catching when Castellanos talk/sings his simple melodies under a wave of effects and driving rhythms such as on 'Violations' or 'Head Hang Low'. He can also ride a riff for all it's worth, particularly with a distorted bassline as he does in 'Gamelin Minscape'. After a barrage of various uptempo styles the album is rounded out with a handful of mellower, yet no less spaced-out, musical tracks, building to the final, 10 minute 'Visitation (Exit)' which revels in off-kilter delays, weezy synths, glockenspiels and pulsing bottom end. What is of particular note is that this album is the product of a single musician's work. The traditional (rock) format of drums, bass and guitar are featured throughout in a remarkably ensemble sounding manner, overlaid with synths and production. It does sound like a band and it wasn't until I MySpaced The Oscillation after a number of listens that I realised it was something other.

I have to confess to having a large amount of preconditioning to the sounds used in Out Of Phase but, if anything, that would make me even more critical of their use. While I can hear reverberations of the last 40 years in Castellanos' work, this is undoubtedly his own music, a blend of influences put to good effect, not a pastiche of styles. I absolutely loved this album."

It really is that enjoyable. GET IT.

Lost in the phase

1 comment:

the saucer people said...

These spam posts (see above) border on the avant-garde with an almost Haiku feel about them....anyway I digress. I just wanted to say that seeing The Oscillation post has made me very happy, it seems to have completely escaped most people's sonic radar in the three years since it was released. I saw them last year along with The Emperor Machine and live they were amazing as is the album...While I really respect artists who take their time with releases, I really hope a new album emerges soon because I think now more than ever, more people are ready for The Oscillation.

DC Recordings in the form of the above band, Emperor Machine, Padded Cell and the wonderfully named Higamos Hogamos have been responsible for some of the best music of the last 15 years and are one of the few labels who move with the times but always manage to stay ahead of the curve.