Oh Astro - Champions Of Wonder
Download: Oh Astro - "Hello Fuji Boy"
Download: Oh Astro - "Snow Queen"
Champions of Wonder (Illegal Art, 2007)
Based out of Normal, Illinois, Oh Astro just released their full-length debut on experimental label Illegal Art. If you wanted an album to which to dance the robot (the premiere of "Battlestar Galactica: Razor" is fast approaching and you know I'll be hosting an afterparty!), you have found it. Or really, if you just needed an album to shake the late fall blues right out of you, this is it.
Champions of Wonder is an album of fun little musical snippets. Oh Astro crafts songs of beeps, bloops and musical odds and ends. I have a lot of fun with this album because it basically takes the notion of what a pop song is and turns it on its head. But what Oh Astro's version of a pop song lacks is strong cohesion and drive.
But it still works. When I first listened to this dude and dudette, I spun "Snow Queen," the albums' lead track eight or nine times. This song sounds, literally, as if someone made a song, mixed it, and then started chopping instruments out until they reached an energy minima beyond which further removals would result in half-baked chaos.
Particularly on the tracks sung by Jane Dowe, the group takes on a Broken Social Scene-era BSS sound that I like for its light touch and delicacy of its instrumentation. There's scarcely anything I like more than tracks that are meticulous and well-considered in their construction and Champion of Wonder offers many tracks that fit the bill.
On top of it, the production on this record is great. One of my biggest pet peeves in indie-tronica is the tendency to be either way over or way, way under produced. (Honestly, who sets out to make a record using only their Macbook pro and then decides to go low-fi and shun production? The answer should be no one, but that's not true.) But other than a few rough spots, I was very impressed with how this record sounded clean, but not too squeaky.
That being said, the album can get a little bit wearing. There's not a lot of flow between the tracks, which can lead to each one feeling like it's own microcosm. But still, this is a very fun record. It'll get tossed on at dance parties for the rest of the year and I highly recommend that all of you go here and snatch it up*.
*However, Oh Astro also committed what I consider to be the cardinal sin of being a small band: not making any sort of image of themselves or their album cover available on their website. But it's up there. And oh, the Illegal Art website is tough to navigate and a pain in the ass to use.