March 25, 2010

Pop music thrives on convention, so to call Otouto’s debut release, Pip, a pop album is down right incongruent. The temptation to spend tens of words comparing this new band to every minimalist, experimental, indie, even pop, band is almost too great but essentially not necessary, since they’ve heartily forged their own creativity into this album.

The trio from Melbourne credit a minimal number of instruments in the album sleeve (the usual guitar, drums, sampler type set-up) but clearly make instruments of any object – spaghetti saucepan, wok, aluminium bowl? I bet drummer Kishore Ryan’s mum wasn’t impressed when half the kitchen moved in with the band. The emphasis of this album seems be unbridled experimentation (similar to say, Battles) and well, fun.

‘Astronauts’, the first single lifted from the album is simple, catchy and a fair representation of the album as a whole. Instrumentation is sparse, rhythms are loosely adhered to, lyrics don’t rhyme and convention is avoided. I know, it doesn’t sound all that fun but really, it is! The stories and imagery are similarly clear and uncomplicated. Take the track ‘Autumn’ for example, which tells of the changing seasons: “Forgetting that it’s autumn/it feels so cold but it looks so warm. I know summer’s gone.” Later in the album tracks like ‘W. Hillier’, ‘Tennis Players’ and ‘Sushi’ are no less unconventional and the simplicity of their names (whose source of inspiration is far from difficult to conjure), mimic the simplicity of their beats.

Despite being described as a ‘vocal attack’, sisters Hazel and Martha Brown’s melodies and harmonies are actually pretty sweet (no, not in the ‘dude’ sense), without being all cutesy, lady-pop-like. Comparable to the Cubist art movement (think early Picasso), Otouto take pop music and strip it back to its unique and singular parts, then playfully rebuild it, one abstract sound at a time until you find you’ve stopped listening to the ‘sounds’ and start humming to the ‘song’. Call it Unconventional Cubist Pop? Yep, I would.

Pip is released 26th March.