They have been in the shadows for over a year now. The Strathern brothers, teasing us; a small gig here and there, the odd Q&A and the subtle release of a couple music videos (beautifully crafted by the immense Edward F Butler) encompassing the material of their new project Oh Volcano. They’ve been teasing us with all of this, but stopping short of hard releases- nothing that can hit us on shuffle. Second base, not third. Oh how we longed for third base.
Now we have though, and I’m telling everyone. I’m that excited that it’s finally happened- the Don’t Know Love EP is out and we can all get to third, and it’s been worth the wait.
The brothers from Bellaghy have taken a right turn from their General Fiasco days and changed their direction entirely. Gone are the indie-pop sounds and in are the synth heavy electo-rock-come-pop. Polished and slicked up, they seem ready for their next chapter, and what’s more is that they sound it too.
Don’t Know Love is not your typical debut EP. Usually debuts are easy to spot, fillers usually plomp out, muddling the good work done on the stand out tracks. This is usually down to the eagerness of the artist to get the work out and move on to expand their catalogue, it’s a bear trap in dark woods for most new arrivals. Experience counts in music, and experience has obviously taught the Strathern’s that deep breaths are important, and getting it right is worth sacrificing getting it out. Having taken their time it’s clear that Oh Volcano now have a firm grasp on their musical personality. They have their sound and they remain consistent through their EP.
Opening with the title track, ‘Don’t Know Love’, the new sound thuds into our eardrums. Three chords, minimalist and hypnotic, it welcomes the listener to Oh Volcano. It brings you under a spell like lying on your back and watching the clouds dance the waltz above you. I first heard this track in its early stages from their Reading set last year on the BBC Introducing Stage. The studio version is all I could have hoped for.
One of the first tracks unveiled on Youtube last year, ‘Oceans’ bombs in next. This is the track most likely to stick in your head and secure your fandom. It is sharp and tightened pop and is the track that gathers the most pace out of the EP. Perfect for pre-drinks if you’re sick of the same shit.
‘Rush of Blood’ is my stand out track, and the stand out track of most people I’ve discussed the EP with. At their most mature and most mesmerizing, the tempo is the most controlled of all the tracks. The vocals of Owen are the most obvious and expressive, finally he is allowed to explore his own ranges. His voice winds around his thoughtful lyrics and acts as a musical device in itself.
‘Colonise’ befittingly rounds of the debut release. Lifting the tension implied by Rush of Blood it has a taking a stand atmosphere to it. ‘This is what it takes’ reverbs in every corner of the track, pace-filled and expressive, drawing this self-examining record to a close. This has what it takes.