Released: Monday 4 June 2012
Naming yourself after a Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds song suggests an intent to pursue baritone-led, rustic songs with hints of Gothic melodrama. Bursting out of London into the consciousness in 2010, O. Children pursued elements of this with their excellent single 'Ruins' and their debut LP, but took a greater interest in dark guitar dynamics and swoon in their melodies.
'Holy Wood', the opener to sophomore album Apnea, continues this theme, with a haunting oriental-tinged guitar riff and a pulsing bassline. The song truly begins and is dominated by the extraordinary booming vocals of Tobi O'Kandi, a mix of Nick Cave, Tom Waits and Al Jourgensen. Perhaps he makes sense as a male counterpart to Toni Halliday of Curve. It's an impressive and dark opening, with a relaxed, spectral ending, and forges a similar path to Interpol or fellow Englanders such as Toy and The Horrors, but still manages to sound unique.
A key difference with the bulk of the album is that while songs take pinches of The Chameleons and the aforementioned Curve, they are more direct. Though the gothic template of earlier songs appears, it does not dominate. 'Solid Eyes' has its fair share of swirling guitar but has more of an Americana feel, as does 'Oceanside' with its use of slide guitar. 'The Realest' both swaggers and enchants with its drive and wandering melody, and 'Swim' could be Jon Spencer Blues Explosion re-imagining The Cure's Distintegration.
Lead single 'PT Cruiser' perhaps sums up the band's intent. It's a punchy song, led by a spiky bass, with fuzzed keys and a monotonous but interesting guitar riff to which effects are later added. Tobi's vocals continue in their deep delivery, but take more of a back-seat to the layers of guitars.
The temptation to stick to a safe formula is resisted. You would expect the mythically suggestive 'Chimera' to signal doom rather than being an upbeat, piano-led number. The guitars and keys still purr but the song is far more poppier than anything O. Children have produced before. It's an excellent number which could be a strong future single contender. The pop sensibilities also feature strongly on 'I Know (You Love Me), particularly in its euphoric chorus, and the repetition of 'H8 City' takes inspiration from Neu! and Stereolab. While the groove is fairly basic, it is still a pleasant surprise to hear.
While O. Children may not have produced anything quite as immediate and startling as 'Ruins', with Apnea they have an interesting set of original songs which attempts to pull away from the status quo and just about succeeds.