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(c) Hector Tre

Track by Track: O’o – Touche

Barcelona-based French electronic duo O’o make music just as intriguing and rare as their namesake, (the Kaua’i O’o, a songbird loved by Hawaian kings and traded to extinction by European collectors).  Victoria Suter and Mathieu Daubigné create a synesthete’s playground on debut Touche, an album that explodes with impossible kaleidoscopic synaptic connections. O’o’s charm pivots around Suter’s versatile voice which flutters gracefully in the pure tones of Laurie Anderson, Liz Fraser or perhaps Kate Bush. That would be compelling enough in itself,  but paired with Daubigné’s creative processing techniques her vocal presence shimmers with goosebump-raising pleasure waves. Sometimes becoming unrecognisable, she shape-shifts and blends with found-sound samples, one moment becoming an alien brass instrument, the next a hypnotic percussive mantra.

There’s also a sophistication to O’o’s songwriting that anchors Touche‘s more leftfield experimentation with the solid tradition of French chanson. Trip pop-leaning tracks come with wry, wittily observed lyrics about eccentric and unearthly subjects. Their unique mix of organic and electronic textures, of classical and avant garde, of surrealism and eroticism achieves something quite different and full of soulful longing. From the overtly flirtatious title track, to the delirious carousel ride of ‘Spin’ or the haunting wordplay of ‘Dorica Castra’,  Suter paints vivid, multi-colour imagery across a pulsing, chirruping dance mainframe.

O’o guide us through their delicious debut, below. Hit play and prepare for your senses to be seduced.

Aquamarine

“Pain is creeping, seeping / Words are sleeping, weeping / Through her liquid thoughts /Bubbling shaming nought

And nullifying crosses / Can only count her losses.”

As the title indicates, the colour mood is like the gemstone, between blue (sadness) and green (hope) and the imagery is around water and sea. It is a third-person narrative about a woman’s feelings after a break up, yet the tone is purposely rather distant and not overly sentimental. We are immersed in her emotions, shame, anger, loss, pain…numbness, to the point of being a witness to her drowning, but fortunately she is saved by a tidal bore and washed up by the wave on a shore. But it doesn’t end on this optimistic note, but rather on a more derisive one about lovesongs and heartbreaks in general… and this one in particular!

Moon

“I wish for the morning to bloom

And some say I should blame the moon”

A song about insomnia, and the anxiety associated with not being able to fall asleep and being prey to more archaic fears, ‘Moon’ is an ambient mood board of a song, evoking the crepuscular witching hour and the feeling of staring into the darkness at 3 a.m. knowing REM is but a distant dream.

Touche

“Regarde ce que pour toi je garde

Regarde et goûte ma douceur langoureuse, n’aie pas peur”

(“Look at what I am keeping for you, Look and taste my languorous sweetness, don’t be scared”)

The song is about a flower which, to be pollinated, attracts male insects using the same smell as the females of their species. The poor male is completely fooled by the sex-appeal of this botanical trap, and gets so excited that he exhausts himself, ultimately wasting any chance of mating and having any offspring. In the lyrics, the flower is a rose (but in real life it is an orchid). It entices the insect like a siren to come nearer and touch her. There are references to sex (inuendoes and double-entendres and more blatant ones!) and is the hottest track on the album.

Somewhere

“Whispering and whistling / Come and get me / Don’t let me be, don’t leave me fade away.

Their beat going astray / Unraveling frequencies / Unreachable melodies.”

This is a song about songs, and implicitly about inspiration and writing. The idea that, like butterflies, there are echoes of melodies and words ‘Somewhere’ in the air. Sounds flying around for someone to hear, catch and use for new songs.

Spin

“Whipped dreams melt like ice cream would under a bright sunbeam.

There’s a price to pay, life’s a vain ride in a sad funfair.

Set in a fun-fair which is a little run-down, and where the joyful atmosphere is forced, the pleasure the attractions give is short-lived and, if you look more closely, everything is rusty, chipped, both damaged and fake.  Spin evokes merry-go-rounds, dizziness and oblivion, hence the last verse which is a warning to a young girl who should be careful not to be taken in by bright lights, ice creams and candy apples, and should be wary of revealing what is under her twirling skirt…

Serment

“Coulées de silences / Vagues de non-dits
Frémissements d’un serment / Dit à, dit à demi-mot”

(“Flows of silence / Waves of the unsaid / The tremblings of an oath made, half-said”)

In spite of all the promises made, the letters written, love is slowly vanishing… There are unspoken words, untold stories and blatant lies in an ending relationship in which the two lovers are hiding the truth from one another, because it’s too painful.

The One

“The journey was the distance from here to the moon /No time to lose, no time to swoon.”

This might sound like a lullaby or a love song, but in fact it’s the winner of the long-distance race taking place inside a woman’s body, the spermatozoa who will fertilise the egg! First it is a description of the ordeal he has to go through to reach it, and then the mother-to-be addresses her future baby, as if to soothe it.

Indigo

“From envy to anger Seeing red and redder / ’Til it turned crimson red Burnt and burnt and bled”

This track has a contrast between the childish voice (almost naive), and the different mood-swings, switching from happy to anxious, from excitement to bitterness, from envy to anger, using colour-related expressions to convey her feelings. Indigo because it is a shade of dark blue with a hint of purple-red, perhaps a touch of blood… or the colour of a bruise. I also liked the sound of the word which I find very evocative.

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Dorica Castra

“Voices invading my head / Headspace shrinking /Kings of the screen /Screenplays playing cool”

A dorica castra is a type of rhyme often used in French nursery rhymes or as a word game (in France there is a famous one called ‘Trois petits chats’). The sound of the last syllable of the line is repeated at the beginning of the next line. It imposes a rhythm, both repetitive and rapid, which is only broken at the end. All the text is about new technology and the feeling of one’s mind being overstimulated, more especially with social networks.

Lost

“Through the shafts of light / Through the stabs of fright / Something running after me”

‘Lost’ is one of the more intimate songs on the album. It is about the nightmarish experience of being lost in a forest, a forest with all the threats it conjures up… feelings of uneasiness and childish fears of monsters resurfacing. In spite of the subject matter, there is hope and escape in the music, the forest like a cathedral of trees with shafts of lights that show the way.

Tohu-Bohu

“Silver tongued and crystal clear
I’ll stand and preach his earth shattering words”

French for ‘uproar’ or ‘protest’, ‘Tohu-Bohu’ is set in the sci-fi future, a jazzy, electronic fusion, where an alien creature is slowly taking possession of a body in order to announce what might appear to be the end of the world. It’s the weird song of the album, the weirdest lyrics on it anyway!

 

‘Touche’ is released on 17th June, via InFiné,  available to stream and buy here.

 

Photo copyright: Hector Tre

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