“We are the robots”, Kraftwerk intoned at a time before post-modernism had quite defined itself and modernist utopias still seemed a possibility. “We are the machine collectors”, ollo espouse at a time when that idealism has evaporated. “Tick them off your list/Buy them for your kids/They help to make you tough/You can never get enough”. Changing the world has been replaced by possessing the world, and Alex ollo’s detached deadpan contains all the meaninglessness and weariness to which such an outlook inevitably leads. While the sprightly proto-electro blinking away below makes the whole world seem like one big lolly shop.
There are any number of indicators, however, that ollo are in the business of post-modern critique, not post-modern blindness. While the post-modern often sees limits as anti-freedom, ollo set their own fairly strict music making parameters which allow them to really explore rather than just flit around the surface of aesthetics. No synths created after 1985 were allowed. Only live drums or old drum machines were allowed. Rather than lead to retro worship, in ollo’s hands this leads to a deep exploration of possibilities. Snatches of the past fly by, like the way ‘All The Bored’s’ opening arpeggiator echoes Pink Floyd’s ‘On The Run’ before transmuting into something akin to ‘I Feel Love’ 6 minutes later, or ‘Litterbrain’ throws in ‘Kids In America’ style synth accents. Alex’ voice sometimes sounds like Joe Strummer (‘All The Bored’), Bernard Sumner (‘You Been Running With Your Eyes Shut’) or Karl Hyde (‘Burn More Coal’). The thing with all these references and old gear, though, is that they’re never quite used in the way you’d expect. Analogue bubbles and acoustic drums create deep-house leaning groove instead of new wave glitter. ‘Still In Delphi’ manages to finish off with analogue synths that sound for all the world like DSP treated field recordings with its atoms of sound blinking dully. ‘Harpoon’ wanders off into its own krautrock forcefield, with some acid burble thrown in for good measure. There’s a looseness with style that is often missing in the world of micro-genred electronic music. ollo bring vast fields of musical knowledge and experience to their restricted sound palette. And, so while the results have the timbres of things you’ve heard many times before, the music itself is constantly surprising and new. It’s almost as if ollo have discovered the way to have the best of both the modernist and post-modernist cakes, and are eating everything in sight.
Though not possessing a vast back catalogue, ollo are approaching the stage of elder statesmen in Australian electronica. On Ape Delay the duo use all their experienced to create something truly great. Searching, electronic-based music, which evokes old and new possibilities, combines accessibility with stark exploration. This album will be right up there on my end of year lists.