Words: James Frostick
Band image and cover art: Josh Watson
Naarm/Melbourne via Dunedin experimental dark wave duo Ov Pain is making some moves ahead of the release of new album The Churning Blue of Noon – out next year via It Records. The album’s lead single ‘Excess and Expenditure’ is a gripping introductory statement to the group’s next chapter; a colossal monolith wrought from dark and intimidating sound, breathtaking in its sheer density and power.
I’ve always found Ov Pain’s music to be arresting or invigorating in the same way that an ice bath can be revivifying to the senses. Over Ov Pain’s career, the duo has dabbled in everything from shimmering dark wave, frigid synth punk and forlorn post punk to warped ambience and spinose free jazz, maintaining a through-line of sombre elegance and artfulness at each turn. ‘Excess and Expenditure’ lifts the cloche on Ov Pain’s next stylistic pivot ahead of the 2021 arrival of The Churning Blue of Noon, this time showcasing a weighty interpretation of gothic drone that pushes the tandem’s talents to levels of maximal intensity. Doom without guitars seems to be a driving conceit of ‘Excess and Expenditure’ but, even without the signature fuzz and crunch the instrument affords, Ov Pain manage to convey a sense of oppressive grandeur contoured by a stately-yet-enigmatic majesty, which is a signature element of the group’s musical output to date.
The humming synth drone and tumbling clatter of the drums evoke mental imagery of a morass coated in viscous slate-coloured liquid, with remnants of obsidian monuments jutting out of the incalculable depths. Renee Barrance’s unwavering vocals curl around these outcroppings like gelid gusts of wind, a haunting hymn that chills to the bone and hints at an unsettling narrative. The regal nature of Renee’s tone does little to alleviate the weightiness of the track, it merely makes it seem less elemental and more deliberate, as if the foreboding landscape we currently inhabit is the result of sorcery. Soon, Tim Player’s sax sends snaking tendrils of sound around our ankles, dragging us down into the now churning, impenetrable, smothering murk. To say ‘Excess and Expenditure’ is gripping would be to undersell it. Ov Pain’s mastery of mood extends to even the most daunting of sonic aesthetics. I quake at the thought of an entire album built like this, but I want to listen to it all the same.
Listen to the single here:
‘Excess and Expenditure’ is out now on all digital platforms. The Churning Blue of Noon (which was recorded with Simon Maisch of Bitumen and The Werm) will be released next year via incredible label It Records.