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Ovo - Miastenia

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Artist: Ovo

Album: Miastenia

Label: Load

Review date: Apr. 9, 2006

A recent Ovo performance in Pittsburgh saw the Italian duo donning evidently trademark costumes (drummer Bruno, barefoot in a hooded druid's robe and vocalist/guitarist Stephania, the dreadlocked masked crust-punk pixie) and acting out what appeared to be plotless fairy tales in a made-up language during and between songs. The set culminated with a noisy scree wherein Stephania stretched taut one of said dreadlocks and sawed at it with an amplified violin bow, briefly and violently yoking the cosmetic with the electro-acoustic.

And so it is that Ovo's debut for Load records is no less obtuse. While not earth-shatteringly so, it's comfortably alien in a way that the first time you heard the Residents. If anything, the duo slog bubbling servings of noise-rock that vacillate from what's often more "metal" than most metal proper, to what sounds like freer, open-field improv that somehow never loses sight of the underlying song.

The caustic grind of "Anime Morte" and "Coco" recall first-album Carcass, only played with a just-intoned baritone guitar and sung by a glottal stop-happy chanteuse, a la Yoko in her prime. Bruno's drumming is crisp and competent in a sub-sub-genre brimming with arrhythmiacs (intentional and otherwise). He can deliver a machinistic double-kick gallop as well as tease his skins and metals with brushes with equal aplomb, as in "VooDoo" where his steady bed of toms is garnished by Stephania's yammering vocal and cello. "Due Paia di Cuori" is bottom-heavy, grooving scuzz that in a perfect world could have been a Nirvana outtake. The harmonica is employed as a low-rent accordion (and thankfully, not as a frantic huff-and-puff noisemaker) in the weirdly soothing "Rio Barbaira,” wherein Stephania punctuates a playful stage-whisper of a melody with creaky-spring sounds and lazy notes that slide aimlessly from her guitar. As if to sum up everything we've learned thus far, the album's 20-plus minute closer "Miastenia" welds prolonged sludge torture to minimalist chamber music and environmental ambience for a final nudge into dis-ease.

In the tradition of bizarre exports from Italia like Futurism, Ennio Morricone soundtracks and casu marzu, such is Ovo: Weird, but never threatening - and with little teeth that are too sharp for them to ever be called "twee." Recommended to bearded noise punkers as well as Southern Lords and Fantomas-fanciers.

By Adam MacGregor

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