Not to brag, but I just discovered the latest addition to my dreamy indie music playlist. The ContraZoom Mixtapes new album “OVAL” is a refreshing serving of lush experimental indie rock that will leave you mesmerised and bright-eyed. “OVAL” was written by two men from San Antonio and is a big, spacious record. The 15 tracks are packed with hooks and loaded with riffs. A radio rock sound with underground undercurrents.
Led by frontmen Kenneth Garza and Brian Benitez, their artistic influences range from experimental to radio-friendly. This mix of genres alone should give you enough insight into the eclectic vibes you can expect from “OVAL”. But in case you were wondering, the end product is blissful indie rock that’s equal parts fresh sounds and nostalgia.
It’s worth saying that Ken and Brian are among those artists who can simultaneously make you fall into a blissful sleep, but also get up and scream. Intense and pulsating, yet fluid and moody, these 15 tracks build you up before quickly dropping you back into bed. It’s the sound of The ContraZoom Mixtapes we all adore, and with blatant homages to Bowie, Radiohead, Muse, and many more. There’s a lot to look forward to on this release.
“A lot of this album started with beats from other songs that immediately grab you, so a lot of pop rock songs, and a lot of tempos at 120 bpm, which is pretty energetic” says Brian, “Then you just kind of nurture each song like a child, throwing in relevant ideas that help each song. You listen to the music to help define a mood and therefore lyrical content that might fit, and then figure out eventually how each song should sound in its final form. Off and on, this album took 3 years to make, and I’m glad we took our time.”
The opening track “A Fine Life” swings back and forth between otherworldly synthesisers and indie rock guitars. The “OVAL” then segues into “To Be Played In The Event Of A Barfight In Canada,” an upbeat indie rock song that encourages you to do just that. The dreamy-rock verses, coupled with an aggressive, almost grunge-like chorus, make you pine for the 90s.
“Locked Up” lures you in with synth and hypnotic keyboards before building up with powerful guitar riffs and rattling percussion. This song is definitely a highlight of the album. With an electronic riff inspired by 90s trance mixed with an indie rock guitar, this mixed bag of sonic styles stays true to The ContraZoom Mixtapes’ rejection of easily classified genres.
When you listen, you understand that “OVAL” songs run together like a single release. The guitar sound wobbles, throbs, buzzes and growl at you over the next five tracks. The kick drums are militant and regimented like a machine gun. Occasional synths provide additional density – the whole thing sounds like the soundtrack for an evil sci-fi movie.
Brian’s voice takes on many shapes and guises, mixes softly baritone with creepy high register chorus pieces. Through his voice, he paints a vivid and unforgettable picture in the listener’s heart and mind, bringing forth examples from their own life and experience. My favourite track on the album “Learning to Resolve.” It’s where everything unites and comes together for a visceral assault on your ears.
“I think we just genuinely like enough experimental music, film music, video game music, as well as plenty of genres within all forms of radio-friendly music, that it’s hard for us to commit to something more specific.” says Brian “I’ve noticed a lot of music listeners, particularly in the USA, like to have a clear understanding of what to expect from a band. It’s probably horrible for us as a “brand”, because I even have difficulty describing our music, but it keeps things pretty interesting for us I think. We’re inspired by everything we hear that makes us take notice, and we’re always trying to find those moments in music.“
“The Going Rate” turns the abstract psychedelic feel into a much more coherent experience. It feels like Ken and Brian are slowly moving through light and time. “The Yacht King” takes this idea a step further and “A Hillside Reckoning” is the most melodic of the tracks as it feels like a rock ballad. The last track “Tapestry” seems to have nothing to do with the rest of the narrative, but ends the whole thing on a positive note.
“OVAL” is super polished without losing its originality. If you want to bless your eardrums with the rich sounds of The ContraZoom Mixtapes, “OVAL” might be what you’re looking for.
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