OLO Worms: Yard Is Open (OLO Records)
Format: An ‘annual’ that comes with CD & download code.
Out: 13th Aug
The new album by OLO Worms is a curious beast, one that defies easy categorisation and one that’s rammed full of delights. Indeed, there’s only really one problem with it, namely that you’ll have to wait a fortnight to own a copy.
OLO Worms have been slowly building up a reputation for themselves locally (in Bristol) as the talented purveyors of idiosyncratic, quirky & off kilter indie cum folk music & this, their debut album (which they started recording in 2009) has been a long & eagerly awaited release. Inevitably therefore the question on a lot of peoples lips will be whether or not this album justifies that anticipation, an answer I’m going to give away in the next sentence so if you’d rather not know (plot spoiler alert) said answer then for gawds sake look away NOW.
“Yes”. Yes it does indeed justify the anticipation & I’d even go as far as to say that it does so WITH BELLS ON – and as anyone who knows me will tell you I don’t give out yes’s “with bells on” very often or very easily.
With ‘Yard Is Open’ OLO Worms have managed to create an astonishingly varied album, & yet despite the variety every track is quintessentially & very definitely an OLO Worms track – a rarity in these days of homogenised pop / rock ets. It’s a curious album as it’s one that could fit into either of the general categories “genres unpinndownable” or “genres inclusive”. To justify the latter I’ve seen them described as belonging to any or all of these genres: electronica, indie, folk, hip-hop, psychedelia & lo-fi rock – and although they do indeed borrow elements from all those I’d say they don’t exactly fit snugly into any of them. The only category I’d definitely plop them in is “Quintessentially English” which is obviously not a generally accepted genre but is slightly less obviously made up than what I was originally going to call them which is “Neu Britpop”.
This is a cerebral record, a journey into the minds of the four members of OLO Worms, a multilayered, multifaceted creation, deep & complex, an album to which the expression “blink & you’ll miss something” could accurately be ascribed, which of course means it’ll be a long time before you get bored with it – on every journey through the record you’ll find something new, hear a new lyric that’ll either be deep or funny or puzzling or, well, something else. Same (with more bells on) goes for the actual ‘instrumentation’. If you can be arsed you should sit around listening to the album with some friends & see how many times one of you goes “ooh, i wonder how they made that sound”.
OLO Worms have been known to play gigs with Micachu & the Shapes in the past (Micachu & the Worms? Micachu & the Worming Shapes? OLO! Micachu’s Shapes Worm? (Shut up Guy – ed)) & one can understand the logic of this pairing, both make a similar kind of distorted pop & both have a magpie approach to splicing together their tracks, not happy just including traditional instruments but also incorporating anything around them that makes a sound they think could fit into their creations. Both this album & Micachu’s recently released album Never are skittishly playful & charming releases, although I’d probably say this release by OLO Worms is a tad more accessible and lacks some of the occasional intended atonality of Never.
Rather than describe the whole of the album (this is already turning into a far longer review than I intended) I’ll pick on three of the tracks to give you an idea of the whole. They’re tracks no.s 3,4 & 5, although it doesn’t matter what order one takes the tracks in for, in true OLO style (in that they not only like to take full control over every stage of the creative process but they also like to involve us in the process via social media) they staged a ‘live draw to determine the order of the tracks’ (see below) – and I have no doubt in my mind at all that none of this was rigged, so tracks 3,4 & 5 could quite easily have been tracks 1,2 & 7 or anything really.
First up Ol’ Boozy’s Chug Thump is probably the most immediately accessible track on the album, a wonderfully bouncy number, terribly catchy & intitally frustratingly short, clocking in at a mere 1.31 minutes. Having said that though on repeated listens (and I’ve repeatedly listened to the album quite a lot now) one realises that curtailing it so soon is in fact the right decision; it’s a reasonably simple tune by OLO Worms standards and if it were longer then on the repeated listens that the album demands one might get a bit bored with it. It’s a jolly ‘grab your partners’ type hoedown of a song & raises the tempo brilliantly before the next track which suddenly slows things down dramatically.
Strays is a lovely, soft, desperately pretty & gentle little number. Some of the vocals (at the end) come from ex-Bristol now London folk songstress Rozi Plain (there are a lot of guests on the album). The song has a wonderfully relaxing refrain underscoring the whole which leaves you with one of those ‘all kind of warm’ feelings inside, something that the next track totally dispels within seconds. You can download Strays from OLO Worms Soundcloud here & watch the video for it below:
Now onto Barbershop which is frankly bonkers. It starts with a sample of the sound you get when you open Skype, presumably indicating that what follows is a recording of a conversation using the App. The main voice initially is Rebecca of Slow Club (OLO Worms operate as a collective & encourage contributions of other artists) and you get snippets of her side of the conversation as she talks about various matters serious & comic & which ends with a “You’re a dormant volcano of love” directed at James (you probably need to hear this in the context of the album). Following what is a quite gentle opening there’s a sudden pronounced change of pace and James starts singing slightly derangedly as a whole slew of warped instrumentation ups the pace. The track concludes with an “Ah, hubba hubba” from Rebeccaa, nicely brings us back down to earth again.
So, it’s an album with never a dull moment & one with variety at its core. You should cherish the first time you listen too it as it’s full of so many little surprises that won’t be so surprising the second time round, although having said that it’s also an album that’s so rich in content you’ll be finding something new for a long time to come. It’s experimental both in the contemporary sense (it’s adventurous & no one has done anything quite like this before) & the traditional sense (one imagines it was created by probing & trial & error) both of which are to it’s credit.
OLO Worms are known for their unusual release formats & this is no exception. The album, in CD form, is going to be sold with an ‘annual’ (yep, like your old Beano annual) created by the band & it’ll include a download code. For more details about the release format visit the bands website here.
The world needs people with restless, creative tendencies & people who like to tinker with what’s normal & acceptable because without them it’ll be impossible for music to push forward & enter terrritories new. So thankyou OLO Worms for this insight into your curious little world.
The album isn’t released for a fortnight but if you want to keep abreast of the run up to release you should hit up some of the links below where you’ll also find info about the gig at The Louisiana on 10th Aug that launches the release. You’ll be able to buy the album from various outlets such as Rise record shop in Bristol or via the bands website, both from the 13th August.