oOoOO Without Your Love
It took San Francisco producer Christopher Greenspan three-plus years to release his debut LP as oOoOO, but that lengthy gestation period hasn't served Without Your Love well. Simply put, his sound isn't timeless, and even after putting all mentions of "witch house" aside, oOoOO still deals primarily in gothy appropriations of Top 40 rap tropes, with the occasional nod to vaguely esoteric '80s genres—none of which is exactly fresh source material. His self-titled EP was an exciting exploration of those influences that garnered possibly more attention than it deserved thanks to its affiliations with of-the-moment label Tri Angle, and the overlooked follow-up EP, Our Loving is Hurting Us, did the job of presenting oOoOO's initial ideas in more refined forms. Greenspan made all of his necessary introductions with those two records (not to mention a couple of smaller releases); as a result, Without Your Love now sounds basically redundant.
The fact that oOoOO has remained fixated on his singular style over the years is certainly commendable, and his die-hard fans will likely thank him for it. Tracks like the syrupy, thugged-out "3:51 AM" and the heavily distorted "The South" are immediately and easily enjoyable thanks to their familiarity—the latter of the two actually sounds like a lost cut from Greenspan's contemporaries in Salem—but they ultimately offer little more in the way of substance outside of being pleasant retreads of past successes. In fact, "Stay Here," the album's first proper song after a meandering intro, comes off as a near carbon copy of Our Loving is Hurting Us standout "Break Yr Heart," although it's a touch moodier. And yet a large part of the original version's impact was lost in the transfer; the plaintive, Auto-Tuned vocals now sound awkwardly trite and the beats feel jerky and stilted. "Stay Here" also adds an extra minute to the perfectly concise three-minute runtime of "Break Yr Heart," and tosses some limp guitar riffs and superfluous synths into the mix. It's like a magician showing off the same trick twice in a row and accidentally revealing the unimpressive truth of the illusion amidst dissipating smoke and smudged mirrors.
Thankfully, Without Your Love isn't entirely missing any moments of ingenuity. The album's first leak, "Mouchette," is a pitch-black and haunted production which makes great use of disembodied vocal coos and phantom piano flourishes over its sluggish tempo. If Greenspan followed that singular tangent any further, he might start garnering comparisons to Andy Stott or former Tri Angle companion Vessel. Similarly, "Misunderstood" sounds something like a Burial tune custom built for use in a DJ set at Berghain, as its dark and rain-soaked alleys are inhabited by the incessant thump of a sole kick pattern and obligatory R&B samples. Much of oOoOO's debut LP—especially its second half—uses gritty textures and foggy atmospheres that are distinctly reminiscent of the iconic Hyperdub artist's most recent 12"s, and to surprisingly great effect. The nuances of dusty record pops, nocturnal nature recordings, tape hiss, distant car radios, bleeping busy signals, and street noise all color in the blank spaces between Without Your Love's stale beats and half-hearted wailing with a poignancy that might otherwise not exist. And more often than not, those organic sounds feel like the music's most relatable characteristics, providing moments of unpredictability and liveliness to an album which paints almost exclusively with monochrome hues.
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