Black Onassis ‘Desensitized’ (Minusman Records)
New project of ex-Kasabian guitarist Chris Karloff (with Nick Forde on keyboards/bass), ‘Desensitized’ is the first release from the six-stringer following his departure from the perennial indie bores in 2006. The split was allegedly due to musical differences and from the moment you hit play on this album, you can see why.
For a kick off it’s actually interesting to listen to; the title track begins with a brooding, Gothic synth and guest vocalist Steven Young and continues thus, a hypnotic paean to “my lover ‘til the end”. ‘Humans Animals’ is a scuzzy, driving track with a brilliant if somewhat cryptic vocal sample. ‘Trip B’ features the second of the album’s guest vocalists, Liela Moss of The Duke Spirit – and although she sounds like just about every identikit female chart vocalist, it’s not too bad. The track itself is musically fairly forgettable. ‘ISO’ is superb in its simplicity, thudding along with a fabulous intensity that continues to ebb and flow throughout. It’s almost – but not quite – a Nine Inch Nails instrumental. ‘Brain’ is next, featuring the third guest vocalist on the album – none other than The Cooper Temple Clause’s Ben Gautrey. His haunting, spacey vocal perfectly complements the closest-to-Kasabian sounding track on the album. ‘XXL’ is Karloff wearing his Kraftwerk influence not so much on his sleeve but illuminated on one of those gaudy neon LED T Shirts you can buy. He’s added his own twist to the mix, and it works well with the minimalist electronics counterpointed by a farty synth and live drums. Unfortunately though, unlike anything by the aforementioned gods of minimalist electronica, ‘XXL’ is rather dull. (I will grant you it’s perhaps an unfair comparison)Next comes the moodily spartan dark disco of ‘Innocence Blitz’, with Aurelio Vale on vocals. Swelling synths abound here, creating a wonderful sense of atmosphere. It’s superb, and one that will undoubtedly make it onto the playlists of every darkwave DJ in the country alongside the usual fare.
‘Minus Intermission’ is just that, an intermission – and there are some great riffs in there for sure, but they are lost amongst loads of musical driftwood. It listens like I’d imagine the cutting room floor at any of the big film studios looks; loads of discarded ideas, destined for the special features section of the film’s DVD release. ‘Minus Humans’ opens with another Kraftwerkian lo-fi synth, and whispered delay drenched vocals. Ultimately again however it ends up being a rather dull piece of throwaway electronica. ‘Mono’ is better, sounding like a slightly more hectic VNV Nation. This one will undoubtedly sit alongside ‘Innocence Blitz’ on industrial DJ’s playlists. ‘Ether’ featuring Morgan Kibby of M83 initially sounds horribly out of place following the sonic onslaught of ‘Mono’. This track alone is more successful than most of the album so far thanks to Kibby’s semi angelic vocals and the assurance that she’s “fighting for a good fight”. Then ‘ADHD’ drills into your head. Literally, it would appear, from the opening sample. Karloff has cited The Prodigy as an influence, and you can hear it as clear as the nose on your face here – the manic drums and simple synth parts are indeed reminiscent of the rave nutjobs early work. It’s not bad. Lastly is the downright peculiar ‘Minus Theme’, a sort of 46 second lullaby played on an organ that seems to be underwater. That’s about all I’ve got on that one…
‘Desensitized’ is the sound of a man finally set free from musical oppression; like he has finally been able to commit a wealth of ideas to record. The results are mixed. There are undoubtedly moments of brilliance, however you have to work to pick them out from the chaos. Perhaps tellingly, the stand out cuts on the album come from the tracks with guest vocalists, and certainly the impression I get is Karloff needs a vocalist to work with as a focus and complement for his ideas. Far from a bad album, and I look forward to hearing more.
Thanks to Ellie Clarke from Prescription PR for providing this album for review.