OvO, Khost, Colossloth: Wagon and Horses Birmingham – live review
OvO, Khost, Colossloth
Wagon and Horses, Birmingham
5th May 2014
Italian duo OvO say that they ‘Bring noise to town.’ They played Birmingham on Monday and Louder Than War’s Adrian Bloxham was there for the best gig so far this year.
OvO are sound checking above, I am sat in the little back room of the Wagon and Horses watching the football waiting for the room to open above me, I can’t hear the football. I am in a bleak grey part of Birmingham with factories, industrial buildings and a grey forgotten feel to the streets. The pub feels like a regulars place, it feels old and lived in, which for a pub is surprisingly few and far between these days.
The doors open and Colossloth takes the floor in front of the stage with a table of electronics in front of him. This is immediately interesting; anyone I’ve seen do this before has made the most astounding noise and this is no exception. The sound is a throbbing, oscillating madness, reminiscent of the likes of Merzbow and KK Null but more delicate and subtle than most of what I’ve heard them play. The most absorbing track was the tiny piano noises being swallowed up by distorted bass, he leans over the table and sets things going while using what looks like a dimmer switch to build a soundscape of noise over the top, repetitive and absorbing.
Khost step up and all the lights go out, they have no stage lighting, just a bare bulb up to the right on the wall of the venue, the only visuals are the power LEDs of the equipment and two laptops showing films behind them. Khost are very loud and very slow, they build the songs up to a slowed down doom-a-go-go. The most interesting thing about Khost is how they utilise samples and quiet between the slabs of black guitar. Choirs sing only to be swallowed up in the mire, static hisses around words as you wait for the riffs to crash in, Khost were interesting in a field that I find stagnates easily.
OvO are something else though. The stage is wreathed in blue light. There are two of them, a diminutive woman with dreadlocks to her ankles in a black dress and a huge, monolith of a drummer who wouldn’t look out of place in a pro-wrestling ring. They stand and then start with a quiet understated sample the drums and guitar ten build up with screams over the top, very atmospheric and strangely beautiful.
The songs aren’t long, and each one is different. Tribal drumming segues into chaotic guitar and harsh guttural vocals, its pure madness and chaos set to the incessant drums. Songs spiral out like a dark psychedelia and then crash back to earth as another off kilter guitar riff catches you out, and the abruptly changes as the vocal is used more and more as an instrument in its own right.
They switch from full on thrash punk to grindcore, through sheer insanity and just keep going. The singer is downright terrifying, and quite wonderful. Then they stop, and she sings quietly and prettily, the same phrase over and over again, getting louder, harsher and more intense as the music grows too until it turns into folk music straight from the insane, a sound that defies genre and words, this fades away too, until all we have is a whisper.Then they are finished, not a long set but still, perfect. They thank us and are genuinely grateful for people coming to see them on a Monday night. They are, hands down, the best band I have seen this year. A revelation. You need to see OvO, trust me.
All words by Adrian Bloxham. More work by Adrian on Louder Than War can be found here.
Photo by Martin Ward.