“Say your piece, come make your mark”. So goes the title track of Ocho‘s debut album, ‘Young Hunting’, and, listening to it, this seems like a group who follow their own advice. After spending two years developing their sound, Stace Gill and producer DOS, working with a host of guest musicians, have delivered something intense, absorbing and, above all, impressive.
They say themselves they make “transcultural electronic music with lush dynamics”; they’re probably right about that. Whatever you want to call it, it all boils down to the fact that this is a very strong album. Built around sparse soundscapes, industrial beats and Gill’s plush vocals, it’s minimalist without becoming lifeless, dark without becoming sinister, and edgy without becoming uncomfortable. A sense of mystery, of something unknown lurking in the shadows, draws you in, making you want more. Think Bat for Lashes as imagined by Massive Attack, and you’re on the right track.
Take songs like Spare Face, Young Hunting and The Show. Despite there being little more than a piano, drum loops, and some cleverly layered vocals laid on, the impact is immediate. Hints of a violin, sometimes keys or even silence, flirt around the edges but never really take centre-stage: in a way, Ocho ingeniously use what’s not there to flaunt what is.
Meanwhile, other tracks, like The Turn, Dateless Wonder Club, and Deep River, change the pace and show signs of more pop-orientated construction. That moody atmosphere remains, but with a different energy and new dynamics. The latter, for example, sounds like a sultry jazz singer who somehow wound up singing on the wrong stage.
The highlights, however, come halfway through. Spin A Rope sees Gill share vocal duties with Eanna Hickey in a dense, lavish and barely restrained tale that owes a nod to the Nick Cave school of lusty darkness. An unexpected cover of Be My Baby swiftly follows, but where The Ronettes embodied the sweet, wholesome, lovestruck girls next door, Gill sounds like the girl who makes pagan sacrifices at the forest shrine she built in your honour. Stunning in a somewhat unsettling way, it represents everything Ocho do well.
Forty deep and cryptic minutes later, and Ocho’s mark is definitely made with a debut album that shows more accomplishment and originality than many band’s second and third efforts. One for dark evenings and dark places, and one not to be missed.