Sunday, July 25, 2010

Monolith 1 - Omon Ra (Fixture Records)

Monolith 1

Omon Ra
Fixture Records.

SCQ Rating: 82%

Omon Ra may be another songwriting duo who record lo-fi folk songs with the occasional freak-out, but Daniel Miller and Zachary Fairbrother possess a particular X factor that distinguishes their work. It’s audible straightaway on ‘Wabbi Sabbi’ and ‘200 Miles’, an opening couplet that plays up their shaggy mid-tempo folk and softly atmospheric balladry. These songs seek no revolution; they’re undemanding without sounding the least bit conservative and their aura – what differentiates them from any band I’ve heard before – lies in the unabashed freedom inherent to these songs. The country-hued ‘Watch Me Start Fires’ and rustic ‘Don’t Be a Tack’ steer casually over the yellow-dotted line, wallowing in their own sadness while taking nimble turns toward opposing traffic.

That Monolith 1 never crashes head-on into conflict is a wise move by Omon Ra; they taunt these low-key but full arrangements to dance along the brink of despair but always know when to pull back. Jettisoning slightly is ‘Rice In a Bag On the Counter’ which borrows slightly from the Brian Jonestown Massacre’s tuneless advance but gathers steam over its expertly measured two-in-a-half minutes. Monolith 1 isn’t lacking upbeat numbers so much as suppressing them, and its optimism shines through even the longest dirge (the cusp of morning stroll that is ‘At Martinique’).

It would be easy to congratulate Fixture Records for the aura seeping through Monolith 1, given this generous re-issue that includes six bonus tracks, but it’s the performances of Omon Ra that deserves noteworthy attention. Bringing the original material to a close on ‘Simorgh’, a garage-rocker that falls comatose into distortion before rebuilding to its feel-good power-chords. As a closing track, ‘Simorgh’ is a wink that celebrates the free will Omon Ra wields over their direction. If Monolith 1 is but the first of many full-length results, we listeners have much to look forward to.


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