O. – WeirdOs

A fine debut album packed with unexpected thrills...

There is something incredible compelling and formidable about the combination of drums and saxophone. It is usually the engine of jazz groups. It feeds the other players whilst giving them the rhythmic grounding to go off and perform musical acrobatics. But what would happen if the only instruments were just saxophone and drums? Look no further for O. is here to demonstrate that. O. consists of Joe Henwood on baritone saxophone and Tash Keary on drums and electronics. You might recognise Henwood as the keyboardist from the London jazz group Nubiyan Twist, but here he is let loose and running free. Their debut album ‘WeirdOs’ is a commanding ten tracks that remind you why you love music so much in the first place. 

‘WeirdOs’ was recorded live, by Dan Carey, to tape and that comes across. There is an energy to the album that is hard to ignore. Everything is pulsating. It writhes out of the speakers and squeezes you in a bearhug. The album opens with swirling electronics, sax drone and sparse percussion before it comes to a head, before fading out. ‘176’ kicks things off properly. Kicking off being the correct term. Henwood’s sax is the first thing we hear. Raspy blasts are played. Then Keary’s scattershot drumming comes in. The mood changes. Things go up a notch. Keary starts to pound her drums, then it drops back to how ‘176’ started. This pattern continues until the band give everything to the outro and drop down exhausted – I expect.

‘TV Dinners’ follows. Similar sounds emerge from Henwood’s sax, but the intensity has been ramped up. Keary is more reserved there. She’s in the background keeping things moving forward. Also, for the first time on the album, the electronics start to make themselves known. As Henwood plays, and Keary keeps time, bleeps and bloops fly across the speakers. It’s this texture that really makes the song pop off. Later the electronics give a layer of (almost) white noise below the surface fidgeting and glitching about.

‘Micro’ is the hardest track so far on the album. Keary’s beats are reminiscent of jungle and Henwood’s playing echoes dank basslines. I can’t imagine how this must go off live. The album closes with the doom metal of ‘Slap Juice’. Its as eloquent as it is dominating. From the opening sax blasts, and shattering cymbals, we know that things are about to get choppy. When the song hits it peak it brings to mind seething mosh pits filled with aggression and destruction. But its also a positive song. Despite its indignant playing there are patches of hope. And in just over 120 seconds ‘Slap Juice’ over. And so is the album. 

The first thing you notice when listening to ‘WeirdOs’ is Henwood’s saxophone. It dominates everything in its path. Sometimes at the detriment of the songs, but it’s the first thing you latch on to. After a few listens you start to pick up on what Keary is up to. Once your mind makes that switch it all you can focus on. Then after a few more listens you start to zone in on everything as a whole and, this my friends, is when the album starts to come into its own. The music created isn’t jazz, nor rock, nor breakbeat electronics, nor metal but something totally its own thing. As all the songs are instrumental, apart from a vocal sample on ‘Sugarfish, we have to take greater meaning from the song titles. ‘Wheezy’ sounds like how I feel after a good run. Rubber legged, sucking down breaths, a bit disoriented but incredibly euphoric. 

‘WeirdOs’ is one of the finest debut albums I’ve heard in a LONG time. It delivers more than the promise of their debut 7” ‘OGO’ and the ‘Slice’ EP suggested. The songs are absolute chonks. They are the musical equivalent of watching a video of some gym guy bench pressing the entire gym, with all the machines and people in it, then watching him put it down and pulling out a Camus novel and discussing how The Plague is really an allegory for Paris in the second world war. They ripple with power and catchy melodies, and its these melodies that are the real joy. Yes, it’s, beyond pleasurable to have your face blown off by Henwood’s saxophone but what is most enjoyable is to be lost in those sublime melodies while it’s happening. 

8/10

Words: Nick Roseblade


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