Perambulating the Bounds

Sunday, May 22, 2005

OvO at AOV

I good crowd came out for Friday’s show by the Italian group OvO at Angle of View. They played The End a while back and apparently made a good impression on folks. The group is a duet, with Bruno Dorella mostly playing drums, and Stefania Pedretti singing and playing guitar, but also bowing her hair, playing some harmonica, doing a spastic dance.

Bruno uses a stripped down kit of floor tom, a thin snare with the snare off, and one cymbal. He plays standing up most of the time. Much of the time he played continuous, even patterns focused on the open sound of the drums. This gave it a sort of tribal feel, which also came from standing rather than sitting. Posted on a stool behind a kit sends the visual signal that this is rock or jazz, but when you change out of the usual position this points vaguely towards something non-western.

The drumming provides a foundation for the things Stefania does with voice and guitar. As a singer, she uses extended techniques like multiphonic throat singing and an extreme vibrato. It’s the kind of technique that improv vocalists like Liz Tunne and my friend Carol Genetti do (following earlier singers like Patty Waters). Stefania does analogous things on guitar so that at times it sounded like someone hitting the strings inside a piano, and high sounds from strings above the bridge sliced through the texture. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a band put those techniques, especially the vocal stuff, into such structured compositions with clear forward propulsion. I’m not aware of anyone who sounds much like them (but of course what I have heard is pretty limited).

These sounds, a lot of it purely a matter of acoustic technique rather than electronic manipulation, require a broad dynamic range. They were plenty loud much of the time, but also got very quiet. Again, they did this in a way that the sound was always propelled by rhythms and a solid sonic base, never noodling around in skronky pointillism. Probably the range was more noticeable in contrast the other bands on the bill. A band from Charlottesville, Red Wizard, poured through sustained hard core songs, and Taiwan Deth, who vary a lot set to set, were in sonic assault mode.

One unusual thing Stefania does is play her hair. She wears her hair long and in dreads, and at one point she set up a little background loop, put down the guitar, picked up a bow, pulled out a strand of hair and pulled the bow along it. She held a small mike in her box hand that picked up the sound. The effect was stranger visually than sonically, but she also didn’t go with it too long. Long enough to register the visual.

OvO is one of those bands on the noise and beyond punk scene that are still virtuosic (Lightening Bolt comes to mind as another example). Bruno and Stefania play together, in a coordinated way, at one point matching extremely fast passages in drums and voice. This may make them more accessible for a somewhat larger audience. It’s not like they are singing verse-chorus songs, but there is a technical display here that gives people something else to hang onto.

Here's the website for OvO and the label Bruno runs
http://www.barlamuerte.com/

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