Odonis Odonis - Hollandaze
Record Label: FatCat
Release Date: November 15, 2011
Toronto, not known for sunny skies and big waves, is probably one of the last places from which you'd expect a new surf-rock revivalist act to rise up. It's not surprising, then, that when the city's own Odonis Odonis-- essentially the one-man band of multi-instrumentalist Dean Tzenos-- take some cues from The Ventures and the like, the end results are not exactly beachy and summery. On his debut Hollandaze, Tzenos combines the reverb and unique tones of surf guitar with layers of shoegaze haze and industrial noise, crafting a sound that's as aggressive as it is hypnotic.
Previously released as a single last May, "Busted Lip" is the record's early highlight, adding a confrontational spin to Automatic-era Jesus and Mary Chain and showcasing Tzenos's skill at transforming a typically carefree style into something decidedly heavier and more brooding. While slower tempos tend to be the dominant force on the album, accentuating its overall druggy atmosphere, an occasional noise burst like "White Flag Riot", a sludgy take on early Pixies songs, peeks through, providing a slight shift in mood without sacrificing cohesiveness. For despite its varied sonic concoctions, Hollandaze remains a distinctive work throughout its duration, its influences readily audible, but layered and pieced together in consistently intriguing ways.
It's natural, though perhaps a bit lazy, to compare a shoegaze-leaning album to the genre's foremost forefathers My Bloody Valentine-- and indeed, for most of Hollandaze, a darker-sounding band like A Place to Bury Strangers is probably more apt-- but the six-minute "Seedgazer" actually does sound like a true descendant of Loveless. Meanwhile, the trippy experimentalism of "New World" seems to pull inspiration from a more recent source, The Flaming Lips left turn on Embyonic. Not completely afraid of a pure pop melody, Tzenos channels the songwriting style of Oasis on "Handle Bars", though the final product sounds more like the work of mid-'80s Sonic Youth.
Much like Man or Astro-Man? updated classic surf rock and tailored it for consumption by the Touch and Go crowd, Odonis Odonis's debut-- despite its decades-old undertones-- is a natural fit alongside other fuzz-assisted acts like The Twilight Sad and We Were Promised Jetpacks on the FatCat roster. Unlike those other bands, for whom starkly emotional lyrics are paramount, Tzenos' vocals, besides lacking the thick Scottish brogue, are largely buried in the mix or otherwise processed into unintelligibility. Luckily, Hollandaze is a compelling enough release on feel alone, an album that smartly incorporates a subtle sense of tension, preventing its gauzy textures from devolving into directionless bliss-outs. With a new album already slated for a Spring release, Tzenos seems to be just getting started. The burst of creativity documented in his debut makes it easy to anticipate what's next.