Our Mother: A.O.B. EP
Our Mother don’t think like other bands. The four-piece – consisting of John Hartley, Paul Kowalewski, Liam Garrett and Joseph Charlton – may have been born out of a Halloween house party in Seven Sisters, but their music transcends typical band formation cliché. Their debut EP, A.O.B. – out 29th April 2016 via Lucky Number – is an idiosyncratic collection that amalgamates everything from mid-to-late 2000s Berlin techno to pristine pop, and deftly defies the trends in the current crop of London-based bands in the process.
Growing up in the North East, Hartley (vocals) and Charlton (bass and backing vocals) had tried their hands at music for most of their lives, with Charlton’s interests firmly in everything surrounding Berlin’s prestigious Innervisions label, while Hartley’s loves lay in well-crafted songwriters such as Joni Mitchell – specifically her Turbulent Indigo phase. It was their shared appreciation of euphoric, well-produced pop such as William Orbit-era Madonna and Usher’s ‘Climax’ that acted as the bridge that also saw Garrett (drum pads) and Kowalewski (samplers, synths) cross over into the group at that very house party, and they started making music together that same night.
After a one-off, feverishly received gig at Brixton’s Hootananny, the band knuckled down in John’s flat, producing meticulously made tracks that are born out of disparate ideas – ‘Silent Brass’ is loosely based on the melody to ‘Silent Night’, while ‘Age of Empirez’ is filled with youthful nostalgia from the game of the same name as well as nodding to Age of Adz-era Sufjan Stevens. Technology may be a theme that runs through the titles of the tracks on A.O.B., but this is more down to the acute, often oblique observations each of the band members makes – an appreciation of flattened, manipulated horns in late noughties techno – such as those of H.O.S.H. – can be heard as a standout influence on the not so dissimilar ‘Surprise Machine’, for example.
While a sense of melancholy drifts throughout the harp-led ‘Silent Brass’ and the atmospheric ‘Age of Empirez’, there’s a humour and playfulness to be unearthed, too. Constrained by spacial studio limitations, A.O.B. is rooted in self-recorded sounds and disparate elements that end up lifting songs to otherworldly places – for instance, ‘Age of Empirez’ features a field recording of an aeroplane captured out of a window. “We thought it’d be fun to throw that in there and see what happens,” say the band. “It’s amusing to us. We often christen different sounds we make with names – neighing horse, kenco coffee shaker – that kind of thing.”
Speaking of the recording process, the band say “there’s a conflict between what John writes on the piano and guitar, and the electronic arrangement, and that conflict hopefully creates a tension between the rigid and uniform and the emotive.” It’s a conflict which rewards rather than jars. On ‘Surprise Machine’, what initially begins as a brooding and subtle late night jam quickly explodes into an addictive chorus augmented with a flurrying, waltzing trumpet. Hartley’s pitch-shifted vocals sing of hatchets and guns, fathers and sons; ambiguous yet sinister-leaning lyrics that by the end of the song, become an instrument in themselves – another cog operating in Our Mother’s complex and fascinating machine.