Music fans and music critics are fond of putting things into boxes. It seems like every day a new genre or subgenre emerges and this obsessive categorisation while being a healthy symptom of diversity and creative activity in the music business, can be slightly off-putting to a group who are at the beginning of their journey.
It’s natural for a band to wonder where they fit in and thus limit themselves to play by a certain set of rules. What a pity, since the palette available to a musical artist, is broader and more brilliant than a rainbow.
Omonoko is a band that has learned to mix the colours.
This four-piece Northern Irish outfit takes a tried and tested contemporary rock sound and gleefully play around with our expectations.
Even their formation is delightfully untypical. The group came together while all the members were living in different countries and all their formative musical interactions were done remotely. Their debut ‘Animals’ was a home-made record that was studio quality and these guys were just getting started. They were an accomplished musical force even before their first in-person jam.
This band delights in doing things their own way and that delight is wonderfully contagious.
Take for example their track ‘Emerald’. Its a smooth, subtle, slow combustion of hip-hop drumming, ambient swells, reverb-drenched guitar samples, and hooks by the boat-full. It’s a song that could equally be found on an Imagine Dragons or MGMT record yet it fully embraces neither sound because Omonoko are too busy sounding like Omonoko.
Their ‘Wild Hearts’ EP demonstrates this further. The title track has features you could easily assign to Bruce Springsteen, The Gaslight Anthem or The Replacements, yet here it sits comfortably alongside ‘Tired Eyes’ which again flirts joyously with a more hip-hop aesthetic. It’s a rare thing to find a band that keeps you guessing as to what the next track will be like.
Now, this may seem like a strange assertion; but sometimes it’s as easy to be a wildly experimental band as it is to be a ‘safe’ band that sticks to the formula. The difficult part is finding the sweet spot between familiarity and experimentation. Swing too far in one direction and its inaccessible, swing too far the other way and its cliche.
What Ominoko have done is laid out their skills and influences in front of them and performed some musical feng-shui. Taking different elements and harmonizing them in a particular environment. It’s extremely difficult to pull off correctly and if something is out of place, the entire composition ends up sounding lopsided and unnatural. Omonoko’s insertions are fluid and, because of this, their sound is harmonious. It just sits right.
Their latest singles ‘Arrow’ is a stirring slab of moody, pulsating contemporary rock. It’s an assured piece, driven by a stirring finger-picked guitar motif and a contemplative set of lyrics
that are both hopeful and defiant. It’s also a reminder that when this band do settle into one specific genre the results are powerful and there is a mountain of substance to go along with all this style.
Omonoko don’t wish to be labelled. Having said that, I suppose we will have to categorise these guys like we do everything else. But how about we take a nod from Omonoko and throw the rule book out the window?
This band paints a familiar picture while playing around with the elements. Its musical post-impressionism. How’s that for a genre?
Check out Omonoko’s full catalogue on Spotify and support the band at www.omonoko.bandcamp.com