OGRE’s debut ‘194’ is a cold, bright voyage through the 1980’s zeitgeist of future cityscapes. On his bandcamp OGRE describes his own work as a ‘dystopian soundtrack’ inspired heavily by ‘brutalist asetheticism’ : Le Corbusier would love this album, for sure. But where, in popular consciousness anyway, aging brutalist architecture has often drawn negative criticism (enter Jane Jacobs) , ‘194’ is symptomatic of the energy and optimism that characterised the urban planners of the 1950s and 1960s which was transposed into the sheer, raw aesthetics of the urban projects in Paris, India and Brazil. The track titles also reflect the ethos of ‘Phillip K. Dick’ (the second track is titled 2019!) and even ‘Kraftwerk’ including titles such as ‘The Terminal’, ‘Cold Protocol’ and ‘Doppler’.
Lecture over though, and with good reason because there is a lot to talk about on ‘194’. First I want to draw attention to the format of the CD case; it’s a floppy disk case that you would have found in the late1980s, back when 1mb was considered too powerful and dangerous for anyone other than the government to use in case your computer became self-aware and tried to invade the USSR. I love the effort self-produced musicians put into packaging their work, I haven’t been this impressed with the case of an album since ‘Shabazz Palaces’’ last, very fuzzy, album. There is a cassette edition available also.
So, to the music; this is a big album consisting of 18 tracks of beautiful analogue synth and dense, warm bass that at times floods your ears but in others is so so subtle. It doesn’t end there though, there are strings galore on here too, deep cello and violin arrangements that appear to heighten the intensity and drama of the harder-hitting tracks. ‘Gondola’, the first track, drops you right into the midst of the album beginning with distant drum hits and the chimes of a bell; gradually a low floor kick enters to build the tension and bringing the heavy, textured synth. Then it drops, this track has a great groove produced by the interweaving percussive features, in addition to the main kick drum that anchors everything there (to my ears anyway) several other drum patterns, one light and bright, another taught and resonant and then the mandatory electric drum kit that you would expect. It’s a huge opener.
‘2019’ is a homage to the work of Vangelis on the ‘Blade Runner’ soundtrack and this track brings in some of the string arrangements I mentioned previously. The main flickering analogue synth on here is ace, managing to capture the dark, synthetic energy that this album is about; the synth is paired with the soaring strings and dramatic orchestral percussion arrangements of dhol-esc drums making this an intense listen. It would be my choice of music in a car chase involving lasers.
The third track on the album, ‘Cold Protocol’ is one of my favourites on this album; the sound pallet is carefully diverse making it a very interesting track: grainy digital textures fill the background alongside warm-toned toms that usher in bellowing, dramatic string arrangements. The synth feature on here though, the synth feature is great; it’s so synthetic and icy – mesmerising in fact – whilst all around it the composition rises and falls, twisting with metallic percussion.
OGRE doesn’t just do single speed though, I love the more restrained moments of grandiose on here: where previously there were sprawling visions of dystopias, tracks like ‘Sniper One’ (another favourite) re-employ the synth features of ‘Cold Protocol’ to produce a head-nodding groove underneath a melody that reminds me of the clean visions of the future held in the 1980s. ‘Havoc Dawn’ and ‘No Cryo’ also enter this ballpark. Yet another jewel in this already heavy crown is ‘Fatale’ though that opens smokily and twinkling but is joined by a compressed but noisy, marching kick; ‘Fatale’ has some of the heaviest bass and synth of the whole album – you want to hear this through good speakers to get the full impact on some of these tracks. There are contemplative, deeply moody moments on here too though. ‘Doppler’ is taught and menacing but spacey and unsettling too and well placed in the track order for that reason. ‘Lonely Roads’ is a peaceful, minimalistic track using only brightly toned rhodes (pun intended) and keyboard work. There are some minor key jazz references in the interval choices OGRE drops in here.‘End Credits’, is a powerhouse to end this aural adventure. There is a low bass kick that is so low I can only feel it, coming in underneath the deliberate, colourful snare hits. The synth work has some lovely pitch bends in it while the electronic textures swirl above it. John Carpenter would love this.
It’s a monolith alright; I love it. Support the artist, get it here: http://ogresound.bandcamp.com/album/194