Image © Series 8 Records 2006
Image © Matt Andrews 2006
Debbie Clare (vocals)
Image © Toby Amies 2006
(24 December 2006) Oom, from the southern English coastal town of Brighton are Debbie Clare on vocals; Ed Chivers on electronics, guitar accordion and broken toys (presumably on the song of the same name); Alex Hay on guitars and Darren Lindridge on drums. Their debut album Dead Analogue (Series 8 (UK) SER 004 CD, 2006) comes from an excellent independent British label, who are gathering a fine roster of alternatively minded artists under their logo and whose first tranche of releases includes The All Electric Amusement Arcade the new CD from Norwich's staunchly left-field Magoo; the truly wonderful Beangrowers disc Dance Dance Baby and Helene's Routines, the follow up to their much vaunted debut album Postcard
Series 8 describe Oom's music as "a mix of dark ambience, distorted beats, beautiful vocals and noisy guitars." What they're apparently too modest to say is that Oom cook those ingredients up a storm to create something really rather special. The focal point of the band is undoubtedly Debbie's unique voice. Vocally, she appears to have numerous personalities, slipping easily from one to another, continually catching the listener off guard. There's an uneasy edge to the music too which, like good horror movies, results in one literally holding one's breath at times without realizing it.
"Drive" opens with a bouncing guitar line over which Debbie glides a gorgeous vocal melody. When the band kicks in it's like you've been admiring a beautiful sunset whilst, unnoticed, storm clouds have been building behind you, suddenly the power of a darker world is unleashed upon you. It's awesome. One of the songs of the year.
"Paranoia" finds the band in Bristol territory with the opening trip-hop beat hinting of Portishead. It's easy to understand why Massive Attack invited Debbie to guest on a the song "Joy Luck Club" which appears on CD2 of their Collected album. There are further nods to Portishead--the long introduction to "Twisted Way Of Thinking" for example.
Oddly, another band that came to mind more than once while listening to this was Led Zeppelin. The opening of vocal and guitar phrases of "Rest" for example have definite Plant/Page overtones (oh, and prepare your stereo for the introduction of the bass!)--and the album opener, the extraordinary beast that is "Poison" builds from it's Bjorkish opening to assault you with an intensity redolent of "When The Levee Breaks" with Debbie wheedling and snarling like Altered Images' Clare Grogan's evil little sister. There's even a chilling little nursery rhyme effect slipped into the song – a brilliant piece of thinking. Another of the songs of the year.
In other places, "Black Heart" and the gorgeous closing track "Sweet Hurricane," for example, the band reign in the power for the most part, giving us relatively understated pieces serving to frame and highlight Debbie's beautiful and character filled vocals.
With the presence of such exceptional tracks as Drive, Paranoia, Black Heart, Sweet Hurricane and the extraordinary "Poison," it perhaps not entirely surprising that some of the other songs on the album pale a little by comparison, but it is only by comparison. On occasions the song arrangements do tend to follow a similar pattern, though with different and endlessly inventive sounds and perhaps the album might have benefited from an occasional change of pace, though equally this might be to the detriment of the intensity the album builds up over its 50 minutes length which is integral to the effect the music has for, in the best sense, this album is an emotionally exhausting listen.
This is an exceptional debut--there's only one word that truly describes this music. Immense. --Jamie Field in Hereford, England