seeing is believing

January 10, 2011

originally published in Winter 2011 issue of L.A. Record

OJO
Ocean View Estate

It feels a little oxymoronic to listen to a studio album recorded by a group that considers themselves more a performance art and music group than a traditional band, but with a batch of new tracks that don’t require the visual cues of most OJO works, Ocean View Estate is an ambient stand-out. Blending vintage 808 sounds with both traditional and electronic instruments, OJO’s latest album blurs the line between music and sound art with compositions that swing between possibly subliminal and downright danceable. Consider the album’s opener, six minute-long “La Bolsa Blanca,” a metaphor for the whole album. It starts in with a feel-good sampled beat and builds on it with layers of snare sounds, synthesized melodies and looped crowd chants that eventually fade into a distorted soundscape of stretched-out voices and distant notes that only hint at the previous earthliness. With this, OJO first proves that they can use their cache of instruments to create standard-dose electronic head-bobbing music, but would prefer to mix their communal improvisation it until it becomes space-age sound art reminiscent of Alvin Lucier’s “I Am Sitting in a Room.” In addition to the six-piece’s studio compositions–which could mellow anyone through a Sunday-morning come-down–Ocean View Estate features two live recordings including excerpts from the washed-out “Flesh Car Crash”–performed as part of MOCA’s 2009 Engagement Party series–and “En La Cumbre”–a 2007 audience-based work created for the A+D Museum. The site specific audio pieces don’t entirely translate onto the album format, but by interspersing them throughout the band’s less-conceptual works, the two on Ocean View Estate act more as invitations to see the group live, where audience participation, props, lights and dancing are sure to fill in the gaps.

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