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  Ova Looven  
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In my continuing effort to disprove the RIAA's argument that downloading negatively effects record sales, i present exhibit 2. Well, actually i think this is technically exhibit 4, but exhibits 2 and 3 are tied up in the story. (You can read about exhibit 1 here.)

At any rate, this is the story of a band called Antarctica and their song Full Crescent Crusade. I downloaded the song in 1999 or so, and i adored it. It is a great keyboard-driven new wave tune with tinkling, trebly guitars and half-heard mopey lyrics. It took me a long time to track down the EP that Full Crescent Crusade was on, but eventually i located Antarctica's debut 23:03. Shortly thereafter, i lucked out and found the band's two disc opus, 81:03. (Let me just say at the outset that i don't get the naming scheme -- the actual lengths of the releases in minutes:seconds -- anymore than you do. Who knows what they are thinking? You gotta admire their consistency though.) Another brilliant release. And then i heard ... nothing.

And then some New York City-based Wire fan casually mentioned on the Wire mailing list that he had just got the new Ova Looven CD, 58:34. He also said that, even though Ova Looven contained only about half of Antarctica, it still pretty much sounded like an Antarctica album. So, naturally, i had to track this one down too.

And that Wire fan was correct -- this does pretty much sound like the next Antarctica album. Since the various CDs give no real information, i am not really sure who left when the name changed to Ova Looven. The singer is still there, half-lost in the mix and almost mopey. I think he plays guitar as well, because this album has the same chiming guitarwork that i adored on the previous two albums. The drumming sounds pretty consistent as well -- it is minimal and almost mechanical.

In fact, that's also one of the changes. Ova Looven are more electronic than Antarctica were. Both bands are pretty much old school New Wave synth pop (a genre i adore), but here the drumming borders on glitch at times, and there are some songs that i am certain feature beats off of a laptop. The synth bits, which drove much of Antarctica's music, are still here and still as driving, but if you put a nice synth patch over a glitched beat, it sounds entirely new and different.

The point being that i am not exactly sure what the difference is between Ova Looven and Antarctica. Here's a hint to the band: liner notes help! It's not really all that important, since this album features more of what i liked Antarctica for. I guess it's just my geekish curiosity.

Anyway, this is a great record. Really. Ova Looven are part of the blossoming New York City new wave revival (see also: Interpol, My Favorite), and i happen to eat that stuff up.

But there is an interesting transition occuring on 58:34. It is the slow metamorphosis from a New Order-influenced sound to an Underworld-influenced sound. That might seem like a bizarre transition, but i think it makes perfect sense. New Order started off as a punk rock band, and morphed into a dance rock powerhouse. Underworld started off as a synth and guitars pop act, and morphed into a full-fledged rave powerhouse. In fact, there was a point there in the late 80's where New Order and Underworld were kind of doing pretty much the same thing, and were heading in the same direction, but eventually they manifested their destiny in radically different ways. Ova Looven, on this disc, start out New Order, and end up Underworld. Bear with me and you'll see what i mean.

The album starts with a brief interlude of some German woman saying something. My German isn't good enough to decipher her words. However, as her voice fades out, synth tones and arpeggioed guitars come in. They are joined by a funky little beat, and the song, Power Windows, becomes unstoppably catchy. When it ends a few minutes later, it dies out with a keyboard breakdown that echoes like some old Atari 2600 game played through really good speakers.

The next tune, Invisible Triangle starts with a nice guitar intro before becoming a toe-tapping, forceful tune. The vocals here are not mopey at all, but rather determined somehow, and it really works. This fades into the next song, Sugar Rain, which is almost annoying hummable. The melody is simple and yet lovely, and this song moves along nicely.

But here is where things get really interesting. All Gates Open features strong Peter Hook-esque basswork and funky syncopated drum hits that remind me of Wang Chung. This is a bouncey tune, and i really like it. There is a very nice instrumental bridge, with almost glitchy beats, throbbing synth bass, and groovey little keyboardy bits. Really fun. So you see, this song starts off New Order-y new wave, and ends like a modern UK dancefloor hit. This is the transformation i was talking about earlier, played out in one song.

The next tune, Lust for Svirda is a harmless ballad. It's over before it really annoys, so no real harm done. It is followed up with Puzzle Drip, which sounds like it could have been on the most recent Underworld album. The vocalist sings through slight distortion that makes him sound like Karl Hyde. The beats are really good, and the keys tinkle along subtly. Eventually the guitar becomes more prominent in the mix, and the guitar work is more New Orderish, but still the general mood here is downtempo ravishness. Speaking of Underworld, the next tune, Blood, Wine, and Elevators, really reminds me of the long guitar bit at the end of Dubnobasswithmyheadman, and it really works in the context of this album.

That song fades into the 13 minute epic EE-15. The beat here is almost ravey, and the guitar and keys swell up to a long spacey bridge that is really nice. This mood is carried over to the album's closer, the self-referential Ripples from the Arctic Circle. This is a long droning piece that brings the album to a natural conclusion.

Overall, i am suitably impressed. The Antarctica/Ova Looven folks have done good once again. This album is catchy and fun, and i think that a skilled remixer could have a lot of fun with it. I am already looking forward to their next release.

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