(Featured image of the band courtesy of Chris Noltekuhlmann)
“Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.” – Martin Luther.
I have oft mentioned how I see myself as a modern day treasure hunter, searching the jewels of musical endeavor that would otherwise lay hidden due to the fickle nature of the modern music industry. However, I don’t do this alone, there are a lot of us Indiana Jones-a-likes out there and it is often thanks to these fellow musical pursuants that I will be introduced to another wonderful piece of music from a previously unheralded artist.
One fine and upstanding gentleman who I trade musical discoveries with is the Prog Guru™ himself David Elliott, founder of Bad Elephant Music and the Amazing Wilf of The European Perspective fame.
David pointed me in the direction of Berlin based progressive band Osta Love and their latest release ‘The Isle of Dogs’ and it was, yet another, excellent recommendation!
A quick visit to their website elicits the following information:
“Osta Love unite Rock with Jazz, Pop with Baroque, catchy hooks with complex rhythms and add just the right dose of melancholic dreamscape to form a unique sound that touches hearts and heads.
The band was founded by Tobias Geberth and Leon Ackermann as a studio project, after they left their hometown Heidelberg for Berlin in 2010. The two had met in school and had been playing music together since 2006. Soon the first songs were written, recorded and also performed with a live band. In 2013 they released their debut album ‘Good Morning Dystopia‘ that earned them some attention and many favourable reviews.
The line-up was completed when Oliver Nickel joined on bass and Marcel Sollorz on keys and vocals. Over the years Osta Love played live in almost every club in Berlin and played support shows for Boy & Bear and The Pineapple Thief.
Osta Love belief in the album as an artform and like to combine memorable songs with musical ambition and complexity, to form a cohesive listening experience that works on an emotional and on a cerebral level.”
For a progressive album ‘The Isle of Dogs’ is relatively short, coming in, as it does, at 43 minutes but it does have a 16 minute epic on there so that’s definitely heading in the right direction!
Album opener, and title track, The Isle of Dogs opens in a subdued manner before blossoming into a jaunty edged little number. The vocals have a haunting quality to them and the keyboards and drums give a real 70’s psychedelic edge at times. Throw in some rather excellent guitar work and it is a fine bit of nostalgia tinged progressive rock. There is a very finely worked sense of humour running throughout too, especially on the intricate instrumental session that would’nt be amiss on a Caravan album from the 60’s and 70’s. All in all a rather fine opening to the album. Down to the River has a more modern feel to it taking its pointers from Moon Safari, Mew and the like. Upbeat and cheery with cool and classy jazz infused keyboards making an appearance at regular intervals. Marcel’s vocals have a real feel of quality to them with an occasional halting tone and, once again, the guitar work is rather good.
The next track is one of my favourites, a really haunting little ditty that evokes so many different images in your mind. The Sea has an almost portentous opening before opening into a brilliant song that keeps you on edge with the eerie feeling harmony of the vocals and the persistent drumming and melancholy note of the keyboards and piano. A somber and wistful track from beginning to end, it has a bleak beauty deep in its heart, quite superb. Velvety smooth and super cool, Black Beacon Sound wouldn’t be out of place on any modern jazz album. It literally floats along with an air of nonchalance and aloofness and the Martin Taylor-esque guitar solo just oozes class. The vocals are subdued and sultry and the keyboards add another layer of sophistication to this elegantly refined and intelligent track.
A subtly building, haunting introduction heralds the prophetic Green Hills of Home. Marcel’s pensive vocal delivery adds a hushed reverence to the song and the gently undulating piano note gives it a strong gravitas. It grabs you and draws you into its sombre embrace. There is a stark grace that is the core of this humbling track, never more so than on the pleading guitar solo and the austere harmonies. Moonshine at Midnight begins with a low-key introduction before it breaks out into an upbeat track with a note of Franz Ferdinand. Inventive and knowing, it is a clever, complex song with a lively feel running throughout. The vocals are sometimes solemn and restrained and at other times buoyant and optimistic. The gifted keyboard playing is a particular highlight on this track.
Perhaps saving the best until last, the final track is the 16 minute majesty of Translucent Engineering. A delicate acoustic guitar introduces Marcel’s soft and fragile vocal, leaving you hanging on every word. There is a dreamlike feel to this opening part of the track, ethereal and rarefied. Gossamer like, it leaves you in hushed contemplation as it continues to play out before you, a ghostly synthesiser taking up the baton. There is a pause before things get a little more exciting and seriously progressive, a repeated note underlying a wandering guitar and laid back keyboards, quite a spaced out atmosphere in fact. The vocals join in again and lend an aura of 90’s neo-prog to proceedings, it’s all getting very interesting as the captivating guitar transfixes you. Onto the third part of the song and a subtle bass takes over, driving things along with an increased urgency before the guitar, once again, shoulders the burden and takes an uplifting route to your inner soul. Osta Love are extremely skilled in the construction of emotive music and they use every trick in the book on this epic track, the hairs on the back of your neck start to rise as it comes to a powerful conclusion with Marcel’s voice and the incredible guitar playing of Tobias Geberth adding that final layer of polish to a very impressive release.
It is discovering or being introduced to little gems of musical brilliance like this that really makes me smile. Music is one of the greatest treasures that our world possesses and, when it is as good as this, it is a treasure that the whole world should know about and have the chance to enjoy.
Released 27th November 2015
Buy Isle of Dogs direct from the band