Thursday, March 17, 2016
One fleeting experience with them at the London Underworld, watching them steal the show from opening slot, was enough to burn their name onto my cortex; so it was a happy day when their debut album landed in my inbox. Could they reproduce anything like the same impact shorn of their visual show?
From the off, we quickly learn that their moniker refers to the god of the West African Yoruba people and their religion – the inspiration behind the distorted voodoo tropes we’ve all assimilated from the movies. Through a series of track-linking spoken passages, we also learn that the band can come across as a little preachy.
Skipping over that then, the music itself is indelibly marked with many of Skindred’s tribal touchpoints and rumbles along with a passionate, rhythmic flow. Oya’s enormous vocal immediately takes centre-stage which is only right considering the quality. I can see how the dominance of it could be a marmite issue and the shock value has diminshed somewhat from being within touching distance of it which is a shame. Any way you take it though, she sells every note and gives her all in an impassioned display of both control and range.
There are plenty of standout tracks: “Bloodstones” simmers with joyously soft blue notes that whip up into gutsy driven climaxes; her own “Oya” allows our resplendent vocalist to fully stretch out her peacock’s feathers; “Legbas Feast” brings in folky elements and enigmatic sounds of the jungle to create campfire music to dance to; and “Mawu” delivers an unctuously thick, fuzzed undercurrent that stands in direct contrast to Oya’s vocal clarity.
Having fully road-tested it, there is an unerring similarity between the tracks and the album loses its sense of purpose as it reaches its conclusion. One particular thorn is “Divinity” that quickly abandons its drive for a dissolute structure that skips between structural sections without truly defining any of them.
VŌDŪN’s number one selling point is that they bring something fresh-sounding to a stagnant scene. They seem boundless by design and big on extracting the core triumvirate of soul, psych and blues. With a compelling live show already nailed on, if they stick to those three emotion-sparking keystones they will remain a beguiling act to follow.
Also online @ Ave Noctum = http://www.avenoctum.com/2016/03/vodun-possession-riff-rock-records/
Monday, March 14, 2016
Although the band do find room to go low and slow, they shrug off doom’s more contemplative concepts. Instead they choose to mix up the delivery to try and keep the run-times down. The end result is a stingy album length of 35 mins.
Diving in, the instant connection to Mars Red Sky is established with opener “We Are On Your Side” revelling in its catchy vocal hook and heavy power chord combo. Lilting through the verses they lighten the crush and coat the music with a watery psychedelic wash.
From here, the tracks fire in and fade out leaving the unsuspecting a little punch drunk. They act as mere tasters of something potentially stronger. In this form, they are just fillers that lack direction. “See You Soon” and “Gold Soul” are particular culprits of these narrowed horizons. There is pillar, there is post, but the journey between them is what counts and these tracks gutter like dying candles.
An album of contrasts then, the band glory in the fact that they can stick “Glass Hours” next to “Mauveine” – one is a punky panic of flailing arms, the other a bowed beauty of gentile folk maudling. It is the final two-track statement that takes the biscuit though. “Take a trip down to the feeling / Take your hands off, take it easy” intones the three-way vocal as the band slip back into a more recognisably ponderous vibe – one that shares a commonality with the superbly bluesy experimentation of Orange Goblin and the bliss-kissed mind of Monster Magnet. Then the segue from penultimate to ultimate hits and peels away to reveal the very “abyss-gazing” that their own blurb swears blind the band don’t do.
Soon promise to be an infuriating enigma. How can an album so replete with half-baked ideas and antagonistic contradictions still produce moments of genius like these?