Overmono - Good Lies
FINDING BLAKE IN THE RAVE.
When Nineteen-Ninety-Four's Criminal Justice Act exiled the free party scene deep into Britain's woodlands, the ecstatic communion of drum and bass suddenly found itself waking rheumy in Blake's emerald Albion, sensing the vibrations of a time when ecstasy meant a very different eye-rolled and fizzing type of third sight. For the Overmono boys, Tom and Ed Russell, whose youth was spent holding free parties in the hairy mountain growth of Monmouthshire, the soft nettle beer of the Welsh countryside went down very easy when spiked with abrasive sound salts. The drums were at home there in valleys that once heard the footsteps of giants. Their debut 'Good Lies' is a cairn that signposts the tuning edge of a long precedented live set, diamond-cut across five years. It is an arpeggiated maypole of an album, and its blue-skied keys that roost dancing isles with scrubby synths over oceans of bass are more than summer-ready, trekking further to pollinate deep memories of rural homecoming.
Aping the sample seance of 'Untrue's' danse macabre, 'Good Lies' also drifts in liminal nostalgia, positively rooted in the leg ache afterglow of the rave, but is a very different kind of comedown-core. It is melancholic but it doesn't haunt. Its midis taste of menthol and drying sweat, and are drugged with cold elderflower snares and twiggy drums: earlyearly morning music that, not bashfully, plays to the ebbs and gushes of MDMA's shuddering futurisms. That's far from naive. Being high on ecstasy is a very lucid experience, and once removed from the conditioning that all altered states of consciousness are somehow tainted, the psychotherapeutic Eden of its embrace becomes clear, and soundtracking its synaptic architecture becomes a worthwhile mission. Overmono, then, pays special attention to the sequencing of 'Good Lies', reversing expectations by playing into the euphoric tremulations of the come-up in the first third - hushed awake by the sugarsnap vocals and swell pedal breath of opener, Feelings Plain - exactly so that they can play through to the night's end. The pair displays a sorcerer's confidence for atmosphere that other, overeager electronic musicians in the last few years have lacked, antidoting the melancholy moments of Walk Thru Water with libidinal breaks and rupturing the zits of Cold Blooded (which I look forward to hearing in parks, all summer) with digi-squeals writing fabulist manifestos over its more recognizable dance of steel drums.
Rave (babbling, riotous, eulogized, volatile) has always been a utopian kind of quicksilver. Cultish in an amphetamine possession that looks joyous only to those within its fog, its counterculture chugs on liberated consciousness, immersing in hardcore noisemaking, swamped with drugs, the night, and the gleeful congregating of the young and restless. Through its deep jargon and coding, its ability to collectively - and joyfully - organise and mobilise concocted a new world tribalism, and through its harmonic haptics of movement, beat and sound, it became an unassuming insignia of the anti-establishment. The government's attempts to iron out its festivities were no haphazards of wrinkled annoyance. They were, as Mark Fisher put it, a deliberate attempt at "cultural exorcism, commercial purification and mandatory individualism". Rave's magic Lazarus cycle sees it both intrinsically born from, and vehemently against, the fist its governments tighten around it, and so all its doctrines are prerequisite and immanent: the rave must house outlaws, it must be transhumant, and transhuman, it must be loud but paradoxically hidden, easy to stumble across and impossible to stop. Like drums resounding from the middle of nowhere. At bedrock, the spaces occupied by ravers are sites of dereliction, ruin, basements crushed beneath rent, quarries, or an abandoned bank vault in Cardiff's bay, stepping so hard that its moonlit denizens exit like drunk sailors. An abandoned third space whose corpse is revivified in the zebra gauze of hallucinogens for one last night at the ball. The characters encountered in these spaces are often no less abandoned and some find their new home there with the dove-winged stroboscopic erst, watching jungle dreams fade.
Byway of a collaging of choirs and keys, often marked by a bass that portents in the swamps of rhythm what long night might still be constellated, or was, 'Good Lies' hacks out a footpath between twilights and sunrises, in the inherent transition of the rave and right in the sharp lime between noisy quartz. Because of this, the drums are only sweeter when released from a song's grip, as in Is U which rolls on at about three different levels with a decisively tidal and unceasing momentum. Overmono captures that bittersweet finitude of both the dance and the pill's halogen, a seemingly eternal moment drawn out to its bitter denial. For all the lava tides of Arla Fearn there is the neverending flight of Sugarrushhh, and 'Good Lies' bridging of these two step states might finally unite your friends' otherwise partisan BPM preferences.
Though there is a dubbiness to 'Good Lies' that will feel perfectly snug rattling its plates against the lossless igloo of a tech dungeon, its mission statement is one evidently of escape into memory and into the outdoors. Windchime ambiance and birdsong anticipate the synthesizing of mental and actual s p a c e for sound to emancipate into, visualizing pronoia rivulets wriggling off beyond the forest ceiling towards the grander project. Starring Tirzah, Slowthai, and reclaimed crate-dug saints, Overmono chops them all into a unitary and eagerly incantatory inner child that, under trees, one might imagine warbling through faerie groves. The forest is a heartless plexus of fables, a site of connection and of roots, but also of secrecy and the lost. It leys the perfect lines for an album so endeared towards memories of dropping way after the dawn chorus has begun, where sweat marries the dew in the first greys of the first Welsh morning without rain. Label XL Recordings seem keen to imbue the brother's upbringing with this kind of mystic folklore, writing of the duo's quest to find "freedom in machines [and] themselves through brotherhood." Free parties have always been a confluence of the chemical, the organic, and the cybernetic, where the DJ spins strange and cloven stones to eat rivers like wav. files and send soundsystems knocking at grass in some arp-coded pennillion.
At this winding golemic altar, whose acolytes leave the doors to perception wide open in a blustering, electrical backdraft, a very unique, gentle, cathartic communion takes place, and 'Good Lies' weird, easy house feels built right at its solstice. Their live set's frequent remixing of I Have a Love is an example of how they stage the club scene's recurring intersecting of grief and euphoria, and euphoria as an exorcism of grief.
"From the two by two fuck you punk stage
To a warehouse rave, with a bloke we met on the way
Dancing til day
I have a love, and it never fades."
Reckoning with the crash of MDMA is just a microcosm of the time of your life that you take it in - school, university, summers, holidays, all crackling with goodbye. Smithed on bonds that might not last - bonds that perhaps shouldn't - drugs and dancing til the wee hours feel like a multicoloured propane to their ending - worth alighting just for the show - especially for men whose friendships so regularly exist in the domains of dopamine, hedonism, and jokes. The oft-maligned and misunderstood male friendship usually does not reveal its intimacy through the uneasy bearing of whatever heart is supposed to exist beneath bravado (persona is not so easy to privatize). Rather, men become close, truly close, over long periods of time, hanging out in large groups with the space to exist purely, simply, with or without their toxicity in tow, unjudged, held only by the aria of laughter. Yet across vast periods so cathartic and unburdened by the expectation of capital and attitude, they eventually cover inch-by-inch the broadest spectrum of emotions. Though there may never come a time for the true depth of these feelings to be acknowledged, men come to know each other as brothers might without ever really lifting a finger, knowing that if grief or heartbreak does come then the space has already secretly been eked out to experience it, together, and usually with grace. At the rave, the sweaty boy cuddles of a comedown, gurned "I love yous" and clasped shoulders flung with tunes are also these very legitimate building blocks of male love. The rave becomes this glinting arena of affection, all of it innocent and generous and no less real because everyone was fucked whilst it happened, in fact just the opposite. And if a lad was to admit it, they might tell you that these memories are soft bliss, and, in the same blushing confession, they might also tell you that the conversations shared amongst one another at the height of an MDMA pill were some of the truest they have ever had, and if their "I love yous" told lies then they certainly weren't ever bad.